migrantvoice
Speaking for Ourselves

Guilty until proven innocent: Parliament's chance to right another Home Office wrong

Guilty until proven innocent: Parliament's chance to right another Home Office wrong

MV

 Migrant Voice -
 Migrant Voice - Guilty until proven innocent: Parliament's chance to right another Home Office wrong


Migrant Voice's briefing to MP's ahead of the 4 September  parliamentary debate on international students whose visas were cancelled due to allegations of cheating. 

What we want

• To draw parliament’s attention to the Home Office's decision to expel  – thus ruining the lives of - tens of thousands of international students from Britain on the accusation of cheating
• To elicit a Government response to a situation that Nazek Ramadan, director of Migrant Voice, has described as “a Windrush-style example of disastrous decision-making, another toxic effect of the government’s ‘hostile environment’ policy towards migrants.” 
• For parliament to take action and do right by the students

The heart of the issue:

After examples of cheating were uncovered four years ago in a Home Office-contracted English language test, the Government, in an extraordinary act of collective punishment, announced that everyone who had taken the test over a three-year period was deemed to have cheated, summarily kicked off their degree courses and ordered to leave the country.

Number of students affected:

The Government has not given a figure. The figure is believed to be over 40,000, with the National Union of Students estimating that over 56,000 were affecting. Most are from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.

The unfairness of the decision:

The evidence of alleged cheating has not been made available, which makes legal challenge almost impossible. The universities involved (some students had completed their courses and obtained degrees) and the company that administered the tests refuse to engage with the issue, insisting it is a Government matter. But the Home Office's 'hostile environment' means it will not engage either.

The impact:

The lives of many of the students have been destroyed. All carry a lifetime stigma of cheating and expulsion, which blocks them from continuing their studies and obtaining jobs in their professions; in some cases their parents insist that they must clear their names before they return home. The students and their families have lost thousands of pounds in university fees that are not being reimbursed. Some have incurred large legal bills. Some have been deported, others detained. Those who have stayed on in Britain in an attempt to clear their names are unable to work or rent accommodation.

No access to justice:

The Home office has taken several actions to frustrate students’ efforts to access justice: relying on evidence that has been highly criticised by the courts, denying students access to critical evidence, and removing appeal rights. Other students can only contest their treatment by making a legal appeal from their country of origin. But apart from the logistical, communications and financial difficulties of launching cases from thousands of miles away, students who have followed this course of action have encountered practical barriers, such as the unavailability of video facilities at court hearings. Those who followed these extremely lengthy and expensive appeal processes and won were unable to return to their Universities.

The students' demand:

Because of the number of students affected, the diversity and complexity of their cases, and the difficulty of determining justice for money lost, lives put on hold, damaged reputations, poor health and other impacts, Migrant Voice is proposing   a single, simple action to resolve this controversy:

Every affected student should have the right to re-sit the language test, and those who pass should be able to resume their university education.


+ Case studies of affected students:

‘I want my future back; International students found guilty until proven innocent’ -  a Migrant Voice report

 Editorial: Learning the hard way