A group of students accused of cheating on their TOEIC exams after a BBC investigation found two test centres were using “fake sitters” has now appealed directly to the UK prime minister in a letter delivered on March 21.
Despite some students being cleared of cheating, “Britain’s forgotten immigration scandal” is still causing misery for many, a charity supporting those affected has reiterated.
“It is shocking that this has taken over nine years now, and that many of the students still can’t get justice,” Nazak Ramadan, director of Migrant Voice, told The PIE.
“They can’t clear their names. This allegation is still hanging over them, it’s stopping them from pursuing their lives, their dreams, their future careers, starting families.”
The scandal – which saw ETS subsequently lose its Secure English Language Testing license in the UK – resulted in at least 2,400 student being deported from the country.
The latest #WeWantOurFutureBack campaign to the UK prime minister Rishi Sunak follows a list of others, including to former prime minister Boris Johnson, home secretary Sajid Javid and the creation of an APPG dedicated to the case.
The Home Office has been heavily criticised for its handling of the case and evidence provided by ETS has been found to be flawed and unreliable by MPs.
“All these years, these students haven’t given up. They’ve been trying through very lengthy, complicated, expensive legal processes. And there’s still many stuck in limbo. Many cannot go back home. They cannot face their families. Some of them, their families told them, unless you clear your names, we don’t want you,” Ramadan continued.
The PIE spoke with some students involved.
“I came to this country with a lot of, you know, dreams of having a good education, giving myself the best education in the world. Unfortunately, in 2014 they accused me of cheating. And I was shocked and surprised to learn about the cheating in the English test because English was not a new language for me. I have studied English since childhood and before coming to this country, I had given my IELTS exam and I achieved a good mark in that.
“That allegation has just literally ruined my future. I was unable to work. I was unable to study further. I couldn’t travel, I was literally in an open prison in this country. They just put me in a limbo. Mentally and physically, I was broken. I’ve spent £30,000+ in the legal fight. After this allegation, I got a good mark in Pearson PTE, but still they are not reconsidering.
“I don’t know what is wrong with the justice system. We are struggling. My face is smiling, but to be honest, I have lost plenty of things in those years.
“The mental condition has put me in such a situation that I have plenty of health issues.
“We can’t do anything. We don’t have any rights. We are just surviving with the help of family and friends.”
“In 2015, the Home Office wrongly accused me [of cheating] in the TOEIC English language test, but I never cheated. It’s been eight years I’ve been fighting this case to clear my name.
“I’ve spent my family savings. My life is completely in limbo. We are here today to seek help from this UK government, especially from Rishi Sunak.
“Still Home Office do not believe. Still, they keep refusing. My mental health is damaged. I’m facing hardship everyday in the UK. We don’t know what will be our future here.
“This time the UK government needs to end this saga.
“With the Home Office, solicitors and barristers fees, I am in almost £20,000 worth of debt. My mum sold her gold that women wear in India to support me in this case. I will come out from this allegation, continue the education, and obtain a UK degree and masters here. I have a dream. The Home Office completely destroyed my life here.”
“I came to the UK on a two-year visa in 2010. Then in 2014 I made an extension application, but my application had been pending for seven and a half years. They eventually refused me on the basis of the TOEIC allegation.
“I’m still fighting for my own existence. I had done a masters degree and a bachelor of education degree in my country. I got IELTS before entering the UK.
“My future is ruined. My life is destroyed. I’m struggling here to survive.
“I paid huge legal costs, and I’m still fighting. I’m fighting for my own existence. I would like to return to my country, but not with this allegation. We need justice.
“You can see my age, 46 years old, and I don’t have any savings and I did not complete my education.
“We are ready to give any English exam test. I was a teacher in my country for seven years. How can I cheat?”
Other victims are being sued by the company that sponsored them to come to the UK.
Migrant Voice estimates that around 60% of the “few hundred” students it engaged in its campaigns have gone on to win cases, “after years of legal processes and after spending tens of thousands of pounds”.
But many are still in limbo and there is no place for them to go, Ramadan continued.
“Whoever took that decision had no clue what they were creating, the injustice they were creating. They had no clue,” Ramadan added.
“They already passed degrees and courses in UK, they were just moving to another course to pursue their dreams, to get the best education in the world, the best qualification, and to go back home proud.”
“The pressure on the students is enormous, and they don’t know where to start. So today we decided to try again and to deliver a letter to the prime minister, Rishi Sunak.”
With ETS saying 36,000 definitely cheated and 21,000 may have cheated, Ramadan questioned how the government could rely on the testing company’s evidence.
“You want more students to come from other countries, you need to treat them properly”
“They mishandled test centres and then use their evidence, which the court and legal experts and others said was very flawed. Still the Home Office persists on using it and criminalising the students and stopping them from moving on with their lives.
“You know, global Britain needs to be a fair, just Britain. You want more students to come from India and other countries, you need to treat them properly, you need to treat them fairly.
“And you know what? It is sad. None of this was necessary. The government could have dealt with this in a different way earlier on when they suspected cheating. They could have asked all the students to resit their tests and this would have put an end to all this and we would not be in the position we are in today. I mean, some of the students are suicidal. Many of them are on an antidepressants and on medication to stop them harming themselves. They are trapped and they do not know how to get out.”