migrantvoice
Speaking for Ourselves

Migrant Voice’s campaign update on international students

Migrant Voice’s campaign update on international students

Daniel Nelson

 Migrant Voice -
 Migrant Voice - Migrant Voice’s campaign update on international students

Eight MPs have promised to press for a parliamentary debate in support of  Migrant Voice’s campaign to clear the name of tens of thousands of international students accused of cheating by the Home Office.

A member of the House of Lords, Baroness Uddin, joined the MPs – seven Labour and one Scottish National Party – in speaking out against the injustice at the launch of the campaign in Parliament on 10 July.

Solicitors also addressed the meeting, which was organised by Migrant Voice and attended by more than 100 students, mostly from Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan.

Speakers condemned the government’s response to a TV programme’s exposure four years ago of cheating in an English-language test: the Home Office collectively accused everyone who had taken the test over a three-year period.

Several MPs at the launch described the Home Office clampdown – the students’ visas were immediately cancelled – as a “scandal” with “catastrophic consequences”. Others accused the government of making “deliberately misleading” statements about the issue. Labour MP Wes Streeting told the meeting: “This scandal is an under- looked injustice in this country that should be on the front page of every national newspaper, as for the Windrush scandal.” One speaker said the Home Office had deliberately tried to obstruct students’ attempts to clear their names.

Noting that the Home Office’s actions had wrecked thousands of lives, Nazek Ramadan, the Director of Migrant Voice, which organised the meeting, commented: “This is 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.”

Labour MP Stephen Timms, who chaired the meeting, said it was unlikely a parliamentary debate could be held before September.

·         On 12 July, following a government announcement – slipped out the previous evening during the England v Croatia World Cup match  – that it was “pausing” a part of its “hostile environment” policy on immigration,  Stephen Timms asked how this might relate to the accused students:

“In 2014-15, more than 40,000 overseas students lost their leave to remain in the UK because an American testing firm alleged that they had cheated in their English language test. Many of them were plunged into great hardship. It is now becoming clear that a significant proportion of those allegations were without foundation. Will the Minister now offer those students who, remarkably, have managed to stay here, a large group of whom were in the House yesterday, a new secure English test to establish fairly whether they can now resume their studies?”

Caroline Nokes, the Minister of State for Immigration, replied: “I thank the right hon. gentleman for that question. It is, of course, an issue that we are considering very carefully.”

Although the reply does not signify any change of policy, Timms is reportedly encouraged by the Minister’s answer, which at least suggests this controversy is a live issue. He intends to pursue the issue further during Question Time in Parliament next week.