migrantvoice
Speaking for Ourselves

Editorial: Home Secretary, hear these voices

Editorial: Home Secretary, hear these voices

MV

 Migrant Voice -
 Migrant Voice - Editorial: Home Secretary, hear these voices

We welcome the news that the National Audit Office is investigating the Home Office over its handling of allegations of cheating on the TOEIC English test, and we look forward to continuing to work with them on this issue in search of truth and justice.

We’re also pleased that the students whose lives were devastated in 2014 when the government wrongly accused them of cheating are finally being heard.

Coverage in The Guardian and on the BBC – adding to earlier reports in The Independent, the Financial Times and on ITV among many others – has finally propelled the issue onto the national news agenda, and we’ve worked hard to make sure that the voices of those affected are at the centre.

This week, we’ve heard from Waqas and Bibi, Fatema and Wahidur. But they are just four of tens of thousands whose suffering has gone largely unseen and unheard for five years. With little chance to clear their names in the courts, they are stuck in a hellish limbo, stripped of their rights and branded criminals.

We understand the Home Secretary is due to announce his decision regarding the futures of these students in the next few days. We urge him to listen to them and to offer the solution that we laid out last year - the only choice that is fair and just. Let them sit a new test and, if they pass, clear their names and give them back their visas.

“My life was shattered,” Fatema, a former Law student and mother to a one-year-old daughter, told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire this week. “I was desperate to talk with someone from the Home Office or from the Court of Justice so that I can prove myself, my innocence. But the last four years I’ve been trying, heart and soul, but there is no hope at all.”

Later she added: “I’m in a blank room, you cannot go anywhere, there is no window, no door…. This is where I’m living right now.”

Speaking to The Guardian’s Amelia Gentleman, Waqas said: “My fiancee has left me because of this, because she sees no future with me. My parents have lost trust in me because I’ve tried to explain to them what I’m going through but they think I’m lying to them. There was one point that I actually wanted to kill myself. I had given up.”

Each time there’s a piece of news coverage about the campaign, we get a flurry of phone calls and emails from people across the country who were also wrongly accused of cheating on TOEIC.

One woman called us in tears, explaining how she and her family are struggling to get by due to the crippling legal fees as she tries to clear her name.

We also heard from a student in India, who returned home in 2016 to appeal the Home Office decision, but is still fighting to prove his innocence. His wife, a British citizen who works for the NHS, is in the UK and due to give birth in July. He is desperate to clear his name so he can be with her.

Both are anxious to tell their stories and we will fight to make their voices heard. But the end goal – as with all of our work – is for those voices to lead to real, positive change.

Home Secretary, you have the power to make that happen for thousands of innocent students. We look forward to hearing your decision and we urge you to make the right one.