The Home Office and Theresa May have been found liable in court of wrongfully deporting almost 50,000 students since 2014 who they believed to have fraudulently passed English language tests in order to study in the UK.
In 2014, the Home Office took drastic action after a BBC Panorama documentary exposed an East London school to be fraudulently passing students who sat the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC)—a test carried out by students wanting a visa to study in the UK. After the documentary was broadcast, the Home Office revoked the licenses of over sixty institutions, and detained and removed over 48,000 students who had allegedly passed their TOEIC.
This week, the case has reared its head again as the Upper Tribunal (Asylum and Immigration) ruled that the Home Secretaries’ actions were based on evidence that included “multiple frailties and shortcomings.” The President Honourable Mr Justice McCloskey, said: “The evidence adduced on behalf of the Secretary of State emerged paled and heavily weakened by the examination to which it was subjected… In the sporting world, a verdict of ‘no contest’ would have been appropriate at this juncture.”
Adding to evidence that the Home Office made a hasty decision, Justice McCloskey noted that there was no evidence from any English Testing Service (ETS) witness, a US firm the that Home Office had contracted for overseas students seeking a study visa.
Last week The Mancunion reported Emmaculate Tshuma’s story, an 18-year-old University of Manchester student who is currently facing the threat of deportation back to her home country, Zimbabwe, where she suffered physical and sexual abuse. Her experience of how the Home Office treated her through deportation shares similarities to witnesses of deportations in 2014. The Hindu Times reported that “students were rounded up in dawn raids and taken to deportation centres, carrying only the clothes they were wearing.” The report continues, “Students had to return home in disgrace—their money having been spent, their courses remaining incomplete and with the badge of ‘cheat’ on them.”
The court ruling could mean that those who were faced with this punishment may be offered a chance to return to the UK to finish their courses, as a way to claim compensation from the actions of the Home Office.
A spokesperson from the Home Office has responded: “The investigation into the abuse of English language testing in 2014 revealed extremely serious, large scale, organised fraud.
“We are very disappointed by the decision and are awaiting a copy of the full determination to consider next steps including an appeal. It would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.”