Speaking for Ourselves

Lives left in limbo as scandal continues

Lives left in limbo as scandal continues


 Migrant Voice - Lives left in limbo as scandal continues

Catastrophic failures of computer systems, multinational company left to investigate itself, no-one taking responsibility, all leading to innocent people being treated as criminals and forced into vast amounts of debt as they fight legal cases. Does all this sound a little familiar?

This is not just the Post Office scandal.

Nearly a decade after tens of thousands of international students were unjustly stripped of their right to study, work and live in the UK by the Home Office many are still fighting to get justice.

In 2014 a BBC Panorama programme revealed cases of cheating at two English language testing centres in relation to an English language test, known as TOEIC, which students were requred to take to renew their visas. In response to the allegations the Home Office unilaterally revoked the visas of more than 30,000 university students, and left a further 22,000 waiting in limbo after being told that their results were “questionable”.

Many students were detained; 2,500 were deported after the accusations, and thousands more forced to leave the country due to their visas being cancelled.

Ten years on, many students are still fighting to clear their names. Some have racked up tens of thousands of pounds of debt through covering legal fees.

As with the Post Office scandal, victims of the TOEIC scandal have seen their lives ripped apart. Disowned by family and friends, who believed that they had cheated, because after all if the computer said so then how could it be wrong? Some have been unable to return home such is the stigma.

The firm which ran the English language tests, Educational Testing Service (ETS), was removed as a provider of tests in 2014, shortly after the TOEIC scandal occurred, but, as yet, no-one has taken public responsibility for the  treatment of international students, or the injustice they have faced.

Successive Home Secretaries have dismissed calls to review the case and overturn the revocation of visas. Repeated court cases have said that the computer evidence is enough to demonstrate that the removal of rights faced by international students was “justified”. Experts in the field, however, have demonstrated time and time again that this was not a situation of widespread cheating, but instead a widespread problem with the systems being used.

We have all seen how computer systems, and a failure of those in charge to take responsibility, can destroy innocent people’s lives. We have also seen that governments can take action when public pressure forces them to do so. 

The similarities between the injustice faced by the postmasters and the international students are startling. Innocent people’s lives turned upside down overnight due to malfunctioning of IT systems. In both cases independent experts have called into question the “evidence” provided at the start, and yet companies continued to be allowed to mark their own homework, so to speak.

A number of students have been able to demonstrate their innocence, but there are still more who are still stuck in limbo. Imagine fighting to prove your innocence for ten years, and being told “but the computer says this”. That is the reality faced by so many at the moment, yet we know the computer is wrong.

The TOEIC scandal is treated as an “immigration issue”, but that does not really cover it. It is a case of more people being unjustly criminalised because of a clear issue with a computer system. No-one should have their life destroyed, and be left in tens of thousands of pounds of debt, because of someone else’s mistake.

This government must learn the lessons of the Post Office scandal and ensure that those affected by the TOEIC scandal are likewise able to have their cases reviewed and find justice at last.

Through our #MyFutureBack campaign, Migrant voice has campaigned for years with affected students, alongside legal experts, to try and address this injustice so the students can clear their names.

 The Post Office scandal has decimated people’s lives. As the postmasters finally get justice now after so long, we need officials to look again at those cases where similar has occurred. We need the public to stand up and say that they will not accept people having their lives and futures destroyed due to other people’s mistakes. We need for students to be able to clear their names, their reputations and rebuild their lives in the clear knowledge that they have been vindicated.

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Migrant Voice
VAI, 200a Pentonville Road,
N1 9JP

Phone: +44 (0) 207 832 5824
Email: [email protected]

Registered Charity
Number: 1142963 (England and Wales); SC050970 (Scotland)

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