Sri Lankan family in UK faces deportation

A Sri Lankan scientist in the UK and his family are facing deportation back to Sri Lanka, The Guardian newspaper reported.

Dr Nadarajah Muhunthan, 47, his wife Sharmila, 42, and their three children, aged 13, nine and five, came to the UK in 2018 after Muhunthan, who is working on thin-film photovoltaic devices used to generate solar energy, was given a prestigious Commonwealth Rutherford fellowship. The award allowed him to come to the UK for two years to research and develop the technology. His wife obtained a job caring for elderly people in a nursing home.

In November 2019, Muhunthan returned to his home country for a short visit to see his sick mother. While there he was arrested and persecuted by the Sri Lankan government. He managed to escape and returned to the UK, where he claimed asylum on the basis of what he had experienced on his visit to Sri Lanka. After his scholarship expired in February 2020, neither he nor his wife were permitted to continue working.

A Home Office case worker sent an email on 20 September this year, saying the family’s asylum claim was “under active consideration”, and another email on 11 October saying the asylum claim had been refused on 23 August – 28 days before the family were told their case was still under consideration.

The family had been renting accommodation in Bristol and all the children were settled at school there. The couple’s eldest daughter, Gihaniya, received outstanding school reports with a 100% attendance rate and was particularly praised for her achievements in science. She hopes to study to be a doctor when she is older.

The Home Office moved the family from their rented accommodation in Bristol to a London hotel last month, uprooting all three children from school.

The two younger children now have school places but Gihaniya does not and is confined to the hotel.

“It is so boring here. It is like a prison,” she told the Guardian. “I just want to go to school. Sometimes I put on my school uniform and just go and stand in the street.”

When Muhunthan’s scholarship visa first expired, the manager of the nursing home begged the Home Office to allow Sharmila to continue working. “We are in dire need of trained healthcare staff and we urge you to consider Mrs Sharmila Muhunthan’s right to work for us as a matter of urgency,” her manager wrote. The request was refused.

A year after lodging his asylum claim, Muhunthan was given permission by the Home Office to work because his area of expertise was listed as a shortage occupation. However, although he applied for university research jobs, the fact that he did not have UK residency deterred prospective employers.

Both John Penrose, the family’s Conservative MP in Weston-super-Mare, where they previously lived, and their lawyer, who has issued a legal challenge against the Home Office about its handling of the case, criticised the department’s treatment of the family.

In a letter to the home secretary, Priti Patel, on 1 October, Penrose wrote: “This looks like a wholly avoidable situation which has been caused by UK visas and immigration working too slowly.”

The family’s lawyer, Naga Kandiah of MTC solicitors, said: “There is growing concern over the state of human rights in Sri Lanka, with the UN high commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, noting that ‘surveillance, intimidation and judicial harassment of human rights defenders, journalists and families of the disappeared has not only continued, but has broadened to a wider spectrum of students, academics, medical professionals and religious leaders critical of government policies’.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “All asylum and human rights claims will be carefully considered on their individual merits in accordance with our international obligations.” (Guardian/Colombo Gazette)

8 COMMENTS

  1. Dr Muhunthan should be renamed Houdini. He returned to Sri Lanka in 2019. He was arrested and persecuted by the Sri Lankan government, but managed to escape back to Britain.

    That claim is almost as believable as the Rajapaksa clans claim to be honest politicians.

  2. Most Sri Lankans know that they have no prospects in Sri Lanka but they have no hesitation to have kids. Why do they need three kids if they can’t take care of them? Why not having one child? Two Tamils came to Australia by boat, met here, got married and have two kids without having a visa to live in Australia. I call it Mother Teresa Syndrome’, most developing countries have the mindset that the world will take care of their responsibility. If I am the Home Affairs minister I would deport them for having Mother Teresa Syndrome based on ignorance.

    Please note, the West will not encourage family planning based on the people’s affordability. In other words, the West prefers to see limited resources with a massive population. This will create dependency on the West. This will make it easier to divide and conquer, because of poverty. This will also increase corruption. The education standards will go down by selling certificates to make money and the knowledge-based education will go backward. This enables western countries to make a significant amount of money by providing knowledge-based education.

  3. However, we wish the good Doctor all the best with his endeavours. His return to Sri Lanka would only be a waste of a valuable life and qualifications.

    Canada would welcome him with open arms judging by their recent efforts to entice professional people into the country. Any person under 40 in Sri Lanka with professional qualifications seeking a better life should peruse the Canadian immigration website.

    The rest of Sri Lanka pray for your next life to be anywhere except Sri Lanka.

  4. He will definitely be an asset to the UK as well as his growing sensational daughter and his family. Please consider their plight and assist them in keeping them there or any other western country as I personally feel that’s the best you could do for this talented, qualified family. Wish the family success and blessings from the almighty.

  5. Something suspicious here. Why was he got arrested during his visit to Sri Lanka in the first place? I’m not justifying his deportation – but shouldn’t the authorities do a proper background check before letting him stay here indefinitely?

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