FIRST CLASS

FROM DE­POR­TA­TION THREAT TO MA­JOR UNIVER­SITY SUC­CESS

Bangor Mail - - NEWS - Jez Hem­ming

A BAN­GOR engi­neer­ing stu­dent who won an 11th-hour re­prieve from de­por­ta­tion in Fe­bru­ary will grad­u­ate with a first class de­gree next week.

Shi­ro­mini Satku­nara­jah, 20, passed her de­gree in Elec­tronic Engi­neer­ing with fly­ing colours, de­spite be­ing de­tained pend­ing de­por­ta­tion with her mother, Roshina, in Fe­bru­ary this year.

Po­lice in Ban­gor ar­rested her and her mother as they made a rou­tine, fort­nightly sign-on in Fe­bru­ary and they were kept in sep­a­rate cells for two nights be­fore be­ing trans­ferred to Yarl’s Wood Im­mi­gra­tion De­ten­tion Cen­tre in Bed­ford­shire.

A pe­ti­tion call­ing for their re­lease to al­low Shi­ro­mini to fin­ish her de­gree, which had just three months to run, gar­nered more than 30,000 sig­na­tures and lo­cal Plaid Cymru MP Hy­wel Wil­liams raised the is­sue in Par­lia­ment and with Home Sec­re­tary Am­ber Rudd.

A cam­paign or­gan­i­sa­tion, Unis Re­sist Border Con­trols, se­cured the ser­vices of a top im­mi­gra­tion lawyer be­fore the women were sen­sa­tion­ally re­leased hours be­fore de­por­ta­tion.

Now, af­ter im­mers­ing her­self in her BEng Hons de­gree, the “model stu­dent” is on the verge of pick­ing up a qual­i­fi­ca­tion some thought she may never fin­ish.

She said: “I’d like to say a big thank-you to ev­ery­one who’s sup­ported me over the past few months.

“It has been a chal­leng­ing time, but I’ve been over­whelmed by the mes­sages of good­will I’ve re­ceived, both from the lo­cal com­mu­nity in and around Ban­gor and from fur­ther afield.

“I’m so pleased to have been able to suc­cess­fully com­plete my Elec­tronic Engi­neer­ing De­gree at Ban­gor Univer­sity and at­tain a first in the sub­ject.

“I’m now fo­cused on en­joy­ing my grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mony, which takes place next week, and I look for­ward to ap­ply­ing the skills and knowl­edge I’ve gained through my course at Ban­gor to the jobs mar­ket.”

Shi­ro­mini and her mother came to the UK in 2009, flee­ing war-torn Sri Lanka to live with fa­ther Satku­nara­jah Aiyampil­lai, who was here on a study visa.

Be­fore he died from bowel can­cer surgery com­pli­ca­tions in 2011, Mr Aiyampil­lai ap­plied for a visa ex­ten­sion but that ap­pli­ca­tion passed with him.

A se­ries of ap­pli­ca­tions to fin­ish her stud­ies came and went un­til Shi­ro­mini and her mother were ar­rested this year.

MP Hy­wel Wil­liams said: “I’m ex­tremely pleased to hear of Shi­ro­mini’s suc­cess and her fan­tas­tic re­sult. De­spite the chal­lenges she faced ear­lier this year, her re­solve and com­mit­ment to her stud­ies has paid off.

“I hope this will bring an end to the res­i­dency bat­tle both Shi­ro­mini and her mother have been fight­ing for the last few months but my team and I will con­tinue to sup­port her in any way we can.”

Shi­ro­mini Satku­nara­jah with Ar­fon MP Hy­wel Wil­liams, who fought her cor­ner whilst she and her mother faced be­ing thrown out of the coun­try. She has now gained a First Class de­gree from Ban­gor in Elec­tronic Engi­neer­ing

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