In February 2014, the television show Panorama broadcast a programme on fraud at a school in east London, regarding English language tests that are a requirement for international students wishing to study at universities in the UK.
The UK Home Office responded to this in quite a startling way.
As Ian Dunt of politics.co.uk reports,
Instead of treating this as evidence of cheating in one school, it claimed that everyone who had taken the TOEIC test, written and conducted by American firm ETS, had committed fraud.
The sponsorship licences of over 80 educational institutions were revoked. Tens of thousands of students, and migrants who had taken the test in the past, were suddenly accused of lying, were detained, and unceremoniously thrown out of the UK. They were not allowed to see the evidence against them, nor were they able to appeal before being forcibly removed from the UK. Their immigration history, vital in considering any future application to come to the UK, was irreparably damaged. The Hindu news site is reporting that 48,000 students were wrongly deported.
Ian Dunt shares these stories of how events unfolded, as told by a solicitor representing some of the students:
“They’re picking them up and taking them to detention centres with only the clothes they’re wearing,”
“They come anytime between 4am and 8am, in a group of 18 to 20 people. It’s about three vehicles full of the immigration officers.
“My client was crying on the phone. When they take the warrant to the magistrate, do they tell them a group of 20 people will go pick up a student who is not a threat? A student who is being treated like weapons have been found at his house?
“One of my clients was part of a couple. I had to get them out the detention centre. The husband was put in one place and the wife in another. They said male and female must be put in different places.”
Thankfully, some of these students did get their day in court. Last week, the Upper-Tier Tribunal found in the students favour “without hesitation”. The judge found that the Home Secretary’s evidence of ‘deception’ by the students represented in this case “suffer[ed] from the multiple frailties and shortcomings” and “its shortcomings are manifest”.
The barrister acting in the case shared some of the comments made by the judge:
(3 of 3)..Some of SSHD's evidence "is so incomplete and opaque as to be virtually meaningless” and ETS's attitude "is mildly astonishing".
— Zane Malik (@MalikZane) March 23, 2016
You can read a press release from the solicitors in the case, AWS solicitors, here.
Right to Remain’s statement on the judgment was featured in the Independent newspaper’s coverage of the story:
“All too often, the Home Office acts unjustly and even unlawfully with impunity and those affected simply do not have recourse to challenge them in the courts.”
It is still unclear what this legal victory will mean for the tens of thousands of students affected by this judgement, particularly those who have already been removed from the UK. But, as Harsev Bains of the Indian Workers Association, who estimates that 70% of those affected were Indian, says:
“I would not be surprised if they choose not to come back to UK after the way they were disgracefully treated.”
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