View from the house: Students hurt by ‘hostile environment’

PUBLISHED: 08:00 20 May 2018


Amber Rudd had to resign as home secretary after the Windrush scandal. Sajid Javid replaced her. I was in the House of Commons on April 30 for the new home secretary’s first appearance.

East Ham MP Stephen Timms. East Ham MP Stephen Timms.

I asked if – in light of Windrush – he would examine the treatment of thousands of foreign students ordered to leave the UK after accusations of cheating in English language tests.

The “TOEIC students” had visas curtailed after a BBC Panorama investigation in 2014 revealed cheating on a significant scale at centres run by US firm ETS, delivering the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC).

The Home Office was right to act on the revelations. However, there was no independent assessment of who cheated. The Home Office relied on allegations by ETS against some 40,000 people. Serious doubts have been raised about reliability. Courts have found some wrong.

I have met some of those accused. I am convinced that many were entirely innocent. It has been estimated that up to 7,000 students may have been wrongly accused. They have been abandoned with no money, no qualification, a shaming allegation of dishonesty hanging over them. They find themselves in an appalling situation. Their treatment shameful. I want a House of Commons debate. I will ask the minister for three things: a clear statement that appeals in TOEIC cases must be heard in the UK; that those affected will have their rights restored while awaiting appeals; and that people wrongly removed from the UK will have a chance of redress. Like the Windrush scandal, TOEIC shows how government’s ‘hostile environment’ immigration policy has gone badly wrong.

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