migrantvoice
Speaking for Ourselves

Latest campaign updates

Latest campaign updates

MV

 Migrant Voice -
 Migrant Voice - Latest campaign updates

In 2014, the UK Home Office accused almost 34,000 international students of cheating on an English language test that they were required to pass to get a visa. A further 22,000 students were considered to have “questionable” results. But many of the students were innocent and have been fighting expensive, uphill legal battles for the last five years in a desperate bid to clear their names.

Stripped of their right to work, study, rent a house or access healthcare, many are destitute and suffering severe mental health problems. Those who have gone home are unable to get good jobs or a place on another course due to the mark of “fraud” against their name. Many have been disowned by their families, who simply can’t believe the UK government would treat an innocent person this way.

We have been working with some of the students since 2017 to fight for justice. We are calling for:

- All those accused to be given the chance to sit a new, secure English language test.

- Their names to be cleared if they pass and their visas given back, with enough time to complete their studies.

See more information about the issue here.

Here are the latest campaign updates, the most recent first:

  • On 25 March, Stephen Timms MP spoke again with the Immigration Minister, along with one affected student. They raised several of the issues outlined in our recent briefings on university rejections, the impact of Covid-19, and the cost of human rights claims.
  • On 25 March, we sent a briefing to the Home Office, via Stephen Timms MP, laying out the particular issues faced by students who have won their cases but are being rejected by universities through no fault of their own, and the urgent problems these students face due to Covid-19.
  • On 23 March, we wrote to the Home Secretary and Immigration Minister to call for policy changes due to the particular issues faced by some migrants during Covid-19. We included a particular reference to TOEIC students whose limited leave is due to expire before they have been able to find a Tier 4 sponsor. 
  • On 19 March, Stephen Timms MP questioned the Home Secretary about this issue in the House of Commons. Watch this here.
  • On 9 March, the Home Office published new guidance for its caseworkers who are dealing with cases where there has previously been an allegation of cheating on TOEIC. After speaking with several immigration lawyers, we published this response.
  • On 4 March 2020, Stephen Timms MP met with Immigration Minister Kevin Foster about this injustice. In response to this, we gathered information from affected students regarding the costs of launching a human rights claim and forwarded this to Stephen Timms for the Minister's attention.
  • On 3 December, a spotlight was shone on this injustice via the annual social media campaign Unlocking Detention. This was after we arranged for the Director of the Detention Forum to meet with speak with affected students.
  • In November, Migrant Voice wrote to 250 candidates in the General Election, requesting their support to end this injustice, and worked with dozens of affected students to help them speak to their local candidates about the issue. Several candidates responded possible.
  • On 21 October, as a result of the letter to Stephen Timms MP detailed below, two of the affected students met with Immigration Minister Seema Kennedy and Stephen Timms to discuss the issue and possible resolutions. The Minister seemed sympathetic, but no new resolutions were proposed. We responded to the letter and meeting here.
  • In October, we began a conversation with the Indian Migrants Rights Council on this issue after they heard about the My Future Back campaign and wrote to the Indian Government, requesting that they send a high-level committee to the UK to resolve the issue.
  • On 20 September, Immigration Minister Seema Kennedy wrote to Stephen Timms MP on behalf of the Prime Minister, who had promised Stephen Timms a letter when he spoke on the matter in July. The MP received the letter in early October. The letter explained that any proposal for a "bespoke scheme" that would allow students to have their cases reviewed (suggested by the former Home Secretary) had been scrapped, with no resolution proposed to replace it.
  • On 18 September, the Public Accounts Committee published their report into the TOEIC issue, accusing the Government of "shameful" action in not providing a means for innocent students to clear their names. We responded here.
  • On 9 September, in a letter to Stephen Timms MP, the Chair of the UK Statistics Authority cast doubt on the Government's consistent use of the "1% figure" - which originated in a report by Professor Peter French in 2016 and has been frequently used to back up the Home Office's claim that only very small numbers of students were accused wrongfully. This was a significant development.
  • On 21 August, Migrant Voice submitted new evidence to the Public Accounts Committee, detailing errors, omissions and misleading statements given by the Home Office officials to the Committee in a hearing on 10 July.
  • On 25 July, in the House of Commons, Stephen Timms MP asked the new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, when he would be taking action to resolve this issue. The Prime Minister acknowleged that his colleague Sajid Javid (now Chancellor) had informed him of the issue and said he would be writing to Stephen Timms soon.
  • On 24 July, there was a short debate in the House of Commons following an Urgent Question from Stephen Timms MP. The Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes responded to Timms' question and several other MPs challenged her on her responses. 
  • On 23 July, the Home Secretary published a written statement. Migrant Voice responded here.
  • On 22 July, at Home Affairs Committee questions, Kate Green MP asked the Home Secretary Sajid Javid about progress on the TOEIC issue. He suggested the Home Office is looking at a way to give students an "opportunity" to present "new evidence", but that the details of this may not be available before recess. We responded here.
  • On 18 July, the APPG on TOEIC launched a report following the hearings held in June. The report concluded that the Home Office had used "confused, misleading, incomplete and unsafe" evidence to revoke the visas of tens of thousands of international students.
  • On 15 July, responding to a question from Stephen Timms MP in the House of Commons, the Home Secretary said he was planning to come to the House with a statement to say "much more" before summer recess, which starts on 25 July
  • On 10 July, the Public Accounts Committee held a hearing where they took evidence from three senior Home Office officials - Sir Philip Rutnam (Permanent Secretary to the Home Office), Shona Dunn (Second Permanent Secretary), and Mark Thomson (Director General UK Visas and Immigration). Read the transcript here.
  • On 27 June, the Public Accounts Committee announced that they are investigating the Home Office over their actions on this issue.
  • On 27 June, a group of the students delivered a letter to the Home Secretary by hand, urging him to make the statement he has been promising. The letter, which was also sent by post and email, was signed by 102 of the students who were innocent and who have been denied the chance to clear their names.
  • On 11 June, the APPG (All Party Parliamentary Group) on TOEIC, with Migrant Voice as the secretariat, held its second set of hearings. MPs took evidence from three technical experts - Professor Peter Sommer, Professor Peter French, and Dr Philip Harrison - who spoke about the voice recognition software used to create the list of those who allegedly cheated, and about the reliability of the evidence provided by the testing company, ETS. In the afternoon, we heard from Joy Elliott-Bowman, who was working for the National Union of Students supporting international students in 2014, and from our Director, Nazek Ramadan. Read more about the APPG here.
  • On 4 June, the APPG (All Party Parliamentary Group) on TOEIC, with Migrant Voice as the secretariat, held its first hearings. At a Committee Room in Westminster, MPs heard evidence from affected students and three lawyers who have dealt with dozens of these cases. Read more about the APPG here.
  • On 24 May, the National Audit Office published a report into the government response to the cheating allegations. It was deeply critical of the Home Office's failure to scrutinise the evidence given to them, despite significant flaws in that data.
  • On 21 May, we launched a short film at Westminster about the students and the injustice they have faced. The 15-minute documentary was made by award-winning filmmaker Tim Langford and tells the stories of five of the students. You can watch the film here.
  • 30 April: A group of MPs challenged Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes on the government's treatment of the students in the House of Commons, responding to a Urgent Question by Stephen Timms MP. One MP called it a "travesty of justice".
  • 26 April: Top government watchdog, the National Audit Office, announced that they are officially investigating the Home Office over its actions in 2014. We’ve been working with the NAO since February, assisting with background research and facilitating meetings with affected students.
  • 1 April: Home Secretary Sajid Javid responded to a question from Stephen Timms MP on this matter, explaining that he had recently met with colleagues and had made “final decisions” on his department’s next steps.
  • 5 March: The “APPG on TOEIC” was launched at Parliament, chaired by Stephen Timms MP. He was joined at the launch by Labour MPs Jim Fitzpatrick and Ruth Cadbury, SNP MP Martyn Day and Change UK MP Mike Gapes. Conservative MP Paul Scully is also a member of the new APPG, which will undertake an inquiry into the government’s handling of the matter and produce a report, including recommendations for the Home Office. Migrant Voice is supporting the APPG in the role of secretariat.
  • 6 February: Stephen Timms MP tables an "Early Day Motion" calling for the Government to stop detaining and deporting TOEIC students and to take urgent action to resolve the situation. Dozens of MPs sign the EDM over the coming months.
  • 24 January 2019: We and around 100 of the affected students demonstrated outside Parliament, the students dressed in gowns and caps and calling for the chance to restart their studies and finally graduate. We then held an event inside Parliament attended by several MPs.
  • 4 September: MPs debated the issue in Westminster Hall. Wes Streeting MP described it as “Britain’s forgotten immigration scandal”.
  • 10 July 2018: We launched our “My Future Back” report at an event in Parliament, attended by affected students, journalists and MPs.
  • November 2017: We joined the students in their fight for justice and began research for our report.