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4,000 foreign students have been wrongly accused of cheating in their visa tests


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Thousands of international students have been accused of cheating in the English language tests set for visa purposes.  

The Home Office reportedly accused students of faking their test results.

Lawyers are describing this as another form of the governments 'hostile environment' towards immigration policy. 

Visas were cancelled and students were ordered back to their home countries. 

The home secretary is being encouraged to review the cases in which cheating has been falsely applied.

Doubts towards the legitimacy of the cheating claims were reported in the Financial Times. 

In 2014, the BBC Panorama investigation made allegations of in the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC). 

The test is required for every student to meet visa requirements regarding spoken language proficiency. 

During this time, Theresa May was home secretary and asked the US-based Educational Testing Service to analyse voice files to check if students had used a proxy for language tests.

The investigation found that 33,725 results were invalid and had used a proxy, whilst a further 22,694 were 'questionable.

In response, almost 40,000 visas were revoked. 

According to Patrick Lewis, an immigration lawyer, between 5% and 10% of the allegations were suspect and others were innocently caught up in the scandal.

"I have clients who were in their last term of study who were then told simply they had to leave on that very day the accusations were made. They had to leave and they would not be able to complete their course.” Lewis said.

Appeals can be made, but only after the student has returned to their home country. Despite this, most countries lack the resources to appeal any such action.

Stephen Timms, the Labour MP for East Ham called upon Home Secretary Sajid Javid to consider the issue carefully after he was contacted by a number of those affected in his constituency.

“It is very clearly an aspect of the hostile environment. The whole thing strikes me as completely scandalous. They say their lives have been ruined by this. Their families invested quite often their life savings to provide a decent British education at a good university for their child," Timms explained

He further added that the international students have paid money, adding "they’ve lost their visa halfway through a course and they’re absolutely stuck. A lot of them feel they can’t go back to India or Bangladesh because of the shame attached to this. They’ve been accused of cheating by the British government.”

A statement from the Home Office defended the actions saying:

"In February 2014, investigations into the abuse of English language testing revealed systemic cheating, which was indicative of large-scale, organised fraud. The government took immediate robust action on this, which has been measured and proportionate, and so far 21 people have received criminal convictions for their role in this deception.”

According to Educating Beyond Boarders, many of the students involved are from Further Education colleges, not universities.

A spokesperson for Universities UK, which represents universities, said that the research conducted by the Home Office “shows that levels of visa abuse involving university students is very low and universities take their compliance responsibilities seriously.

"Action should be taken only against individual students or institutions if there is clear and compelling evidence of abuse of the student visa system.”

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