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Home Office criticised over handling of Sri Lanka scientist’s asylum claim

Sri Lanka

Home Office criticised over handling of Sri Lanka scientist’s asylum claim

A scientist conducting groundbreaking research into renewable energy is facing deportation with his family to Sri Lanka, where he experienced torture, after receiving contradictory information about his case from the Home Office.

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.

The family are Tamils, a group that has experienced persecution in Sri Lanka.

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.”

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I Will Soon Start Signing Death Warrants- Bala Mohammed

Bauchi state governor, Bala Mohammed has disclosed that he will soon start to sign death warrants.

Mohammed made this known on Friday in Bauchi while signing the Violence against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) bill and a bill for the establishment of the Bauchi state penal code, into law.

In Nigeria, state governors are legally backed to sign the death warrants.

Since 2012, no governor has been reported to have signed death warrants.

“We will soon be signing some death sentences because there are many and because of justice which has to be taken to a logical conclusion

“I know some governors are running away from signing the death sentences because they exercise restraints on the basis that there may be some element of error.

“But to me, I will leave it to my lord (the chief judge) who will prosecute. It’s not my fault. If it is brought to my attention, I will do it.”

“As for the Violence against Persons Prohibition Act, we know that we are the first in the northern part of the country to enact the law, which is a member’s bill incidentally from the honourable speaker, and it has earned us a lot of respect in the country.

“But because of some noticed gaps, it was taken back and it was corrected. We thank the house for making the corrections.”

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Court Sacks 13 Ebonyi LG Bosses, 171 Councilors

A Federal High Court sitting in Abakaliki has again nullified the Ebonyi Local Government Elections and sacked all the 13 Council chairmen in the state.

The court also sacked all the councilors and 171 ward chairmen of the state.

The court had on Aug. 25, nullified the council polls of May 31.

Ruling on the matter with suit NO: FHC/AI/CS/224/2022 on Friday, Justice Fatun Riman ordered the seizure of the monthly federal allocation of the chairmen pending when rightful Chief Executives were elected into office.

Fatun restated that the councils election by the State Independent Electoral Commission (EBSIEC) on May 31 was illegal and unconstitutional.

Mr Mudi Erenede, Counsel to the plaintiff said he was happy over the judgment and commended the court.

“In the judgement today, the court has agreed that the Ebonyi State High court has no powers to override or set aside the judgment of the Federal High Court because it is not an Appeal Court.

“Those people, who are parading themselves as chairmen are not there legally.

“They were appointed by whoever that appointed them. CBN, Attorney General of the Federation, Federal Ministry of Finance are all defendants in this suits,” he stated.

The counsel to Ebonyi State Government, Mr Roy Nweze, said there was no need responding to a judgment that had already been delivered by the court.

Nweze said that the matter would be appealed without delay.


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Naval College Graduates 245 Officers, Personnel

The newly graduated personnel of the Officers’ Application Course 20 of the Nigerian Naval Engineering College (NNEC), Sapele in Delta, have been urged to remain committed to the service of the nation.

Rear Adm. Monday Unurhiere, the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Naval Training Command, made the plea at the graduation ceremony of the 245 Under Training Personnel of the Officers’ Application Course 20 in Sapele.

Unurhiere, represented by Rear Adm. Baratuaipri Iyalla, said that the call became necessary in view of the security, economic and social challenges currently facing the country.

The naval chief urged the graduands to make deliberate efforts to improve themselves on the job by way of taking advantage of modern technology and also tapping into the wealth of experience of their superiors.

“Let me remind you that as officers of the Nigerian Navy, you are charged with enormous responsibility and your unswerving allegiance is to the Nation.

“The confidence reposed in you must not be taking for granted, especially at this time that our national aspirations are being threatened by numerous security, economic and social challenges.

“As such, you may find yourself being called upon to serve beyond your technical capability due to the prevailing situation in the country,” he said.

Unurhiere acknowledged the efforts of the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Adm. Awwal Gambo, for creating the enabling environment for training and continued financial support to NNEC.

According to him, this has helped the College to contribute more to the technological advancement of Nigerian Navy and the nation at large.

He urged the graduands, especially the under training personnel, to maintain the current tempo in sustaining training and other naval activities.

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