migrantvoice
Speaking for Ourselves

Editorial: Learning the hard way

Editorial: Learning the hard way

MV

 Migrant Voice -
 Migrant Voice - Editorial: Learning the hard way

Tens of thousands of international students who were wrongly accused of cheating and written off by the government have refused to disappear and are keeping alive the fight to clear their names at enormous cost to their own wellbeing. They are demanding their future back.

This is why July 10 we are launching a campaign to redress a Home Office decision that has wrecked the lives of the students.

It’s a Windrush-style example of disastrous decision-making, another toxic effect of the government’s ‘hostile environment’ policy towards migrants.

The handling of the issue contradicts basic principles of British life, including the presumption of innocence until proven guilty and the imposition of collective punishment.

It’s been compounded by the way the Home Office has made legal challenges difficult for the students.

The plight of the students started four years ago when the administration of a Home Office-contracted English language test was found to be flawed. As a result, everyone who had taken this test (required for their visa) over a three-year period was collectively accused of cheating, summarily kicked off their degree courses and ordered to leave the country, with an allegation of fraud hanging over them. Some have been detained and deported.

Most of the students – who studied at Universities across the UK - were not given the right to appeal against the accusation in the UK and have not been able to obtain the evidence against them. They have also not been given a new chance to prove the quality of their English.

The Home Office is relying on evidence provided to it by the English language testing company – even though this evidence is described by lawyers as “highly questionable” and an Immigration tribunal judge found in one case that the Home Office’s behaviour was “so unfair and unreasonable as to amount to an abuse of power.”

Our campaign is highlighting the plight of these international students who have had their futures destroyed, even though they paid tens of thousands of pounds into our universities and economy and came to study here because of this country’s reputation for high-quality university education.

The impact of this – as detailed in our report 'I want my future back; International students found guilty until proven innocent' – has been to ruin the hopes, health, dreams, reputations, careers and lives of tens of thousands of students and has damaging implications for the reputation of our higher education.

It has led to mental and physical ill-health as a result of the resulting hardships, stress and frustration; broken families (husbands and wives divided, as well as parents and children); large legal bills; loss of reputation and jobs (some of the students retroactively accused had actually graduated and in a few cases were legally working here on work or entrepreneur visas).

The devastation is long-term: the slur follows the students back to their home countries where it shows up on employers’ background searches; in cases of deportation it can show up on airline searches, effectively preventing travel anywhere in the world.

Says Ronak, from India: “I came to this country as a genuine student, and then applied as a genuine businessman. I have lost everything: my money, my reputation, my time, especially my time ... The Home Office has failed to show any single piece of valid evidence ... What I have lost I’ll never have back … My savings are gone, my business is gone, my health is gone.”

Thousands of students like Ronak are trapped. They can do nothing until they have cleared their names. 

The students – whether still here and those who have left the country – are fighting to clear their names and Migrant Voice is working with them to achieve this.

The affected students are thousands of miles away from family and friends and trusted the British people to be hospitable and provide not just an internationally reputed education but a good experience of life in the UK. 

If the Home Office gets away with treating international students so deplorably, they are capable of treating any of us the same. These students could have been our sons and daughters.

This campaign is proposing a simple, fair solution; we are calling for the students that were unfairly accused and let down four years ago to be allowed to re-sit a new English test and resume their university courses and their lives at the point at which they were brutally and arbitrarily cut off.

Help us to do right by the students. Let’s give them back their future.