7,000 Foreign Students Falsely Accused of Cheating English Tests in UK: Report

The Home Office may have falsely accused 7,000 foreign students of faking English proficiency test and ordered them to leave UK, according to a report.


The United Kingdom Home Office, which has been fighting a scandal over deportation targets for immigrants, reportedly forced almost 7,000 foreign students to leave the country after falsely accusing them of cheating. Home Secretary Sajid Javid is now being urged to look into the plight of the falsely accused students.

The Financial Times report cited immigration barrister Patrick Lewis as saying that the Home Office may have falsely accused 7,000 foreign students of faking their English proficiency test and ordered them to leave the country. Some of them were detained and rendered homeless as they lost their position at the university and part-time jobs, according to the report.

Calling the treatment meted out to the foreign students as “hostile environment” policy, Lewis said that most of the them were not allowed to appeal against the Home Office decision or obtain the evidence against them, or meet officials face-to-face so the quality of their English could be assessed. Many of the students were told to return to their home country and file for appeal but in countries like Bangladesh, India and China there is no system for such an appeal, he told the Guardian.

The foreign students were detained and accused of falsifying their English proficiency test after BBC’s Panorama program aired an investigation in February 2014. It revealed systemic fraud at some colleges in the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC).

UK Prime Minister Theresa May, who was the Home Secretary in 2014, asked the Educational Testing Services (ETS), the United States-based company that ran the system, to analyze voice records to check if students had cheated.

ETS said that 33,725 test takers had used proxies for the exam and that another 22,694 cases were “questionable.” More than 4,600 people were deported or left Britain.

Four men were arrested and sentenced to prison for rigging about 800 TOEIC tests in order to help applicants cheat the UK immigration system in 2016, according to thepienews.

However, in December 2016, a Bangladeshi student, who was affected by fraud investigation, won a legal battle against the government, which failed to show evidence that he had cheated.

“Almost remarkably, ETS provided no evidence, directly or indirectly to this tribunal,” Judge McCloskey noted, according to BBC. “Its refusal to provide the voice recordings of these two appellants in particular is mildly astonishing.”

He concluded that the court found Sharif Majumder and the other appellant to be “truthful and reliable witnesses” and “the clear winners” in their appeals.

In 2016, it was found that only 80 per cent of the accused students were cheaters and thus there were 7,000 who were falsely accused.

Stephen Timms, MP for East Ham, told FT: “Conversations with those affected have convinced me that many were entirely innocent. Their treatment has been shameful.” He urged Javid to look into these cases.

“It is very clearly an aspect of the hostile environment. The whole thing strikes me as completely scandalous. They say their lives have been ruined by this. Their families invested quite often their life savings to provide a decent British education at a good university for their child. They’ve paid the money, they’ve lost their visa halfway through a course and they’re absolutely stuck. A lot of them feel they can’t go back to India or Bangladesh because of the shame attached to this. They’ve been accused of cheating by the British government,” the Guardian reported.

The government has recently been in the middle of a controversy for intimidating immigrants from West Indies, who came to the United Kingdom after the Second World War and are called the Windrush generation, to leave the country. Home Secretary Amber Rudd was forced to resign from her position as a result of the scandal. Rudd was replaced by Sajid Javid, the son of immigrant parents, who assured the public that the government will review the immigration policies.

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