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Overseas students wrongly accused of cheating take legal action

Overseas students wrongly accused of cheating in the study visa English language tests have taken legal action against the Home Office, seeking compensation for unlawful detention and loss of earnings.

In 2014, the Home Office cancelled visas for approximately 35,000 international students after a BBC documentary revealed widespread cheating in test centres where international students took English tests to renew their visas.

Thousands of students have been protesting their innocence as the test provider, Educational Testing Service, concluded that 97% of the English tests between 2011 and 2014 possibly involved cheating.

Law firm Bindmans is representing 23 students who successfully appealed immigration decisions that resulted in cancellation of their visas. They are seeking compensation for wrongful arrest, false imprisonment, loss of earnings, and negative impacts on their mental health.

The firm is also urging the Home Office to treat this as a group action to expedite the proceeding based on the Windrush Compensation Scheme.

The government has made payments in at least two cases, but it refuses to agree on a standard settlement scheme.

“The Home Office deliberately concealed from them the fact that they had been accused of cheating, denying them the opportunity to defend themselves”

Alice Hardy, partner at Bindmans

Alice Hardy, a partner at Bindmans, said: “Our clients have been through hell.

“The Home Office deliberately concealed from them the fact that they had been accused of cheating, denying them the opportunity to defend themselves, and instead removed their immigration status with no in-country right of appeal.

“They lost everything as a result; homes, livelihoods, the right to work, study, and pay rent. They suffered the shame and rejection of their families, relationship breakdowns, destitution, and the torment of seeing everything they had worked for taken away from them.”

Since 2014, around 2,500 students have been deported from the UK after being accused of cheating in the exam, and another 7,200 left the country as they faced detention if they stayed.

Some students were detained by immigration enforcement officers without clear evidence or indication of what prompted the arrest.

Others had an English Language undergraduate degree or taught English before coming to the UK, and have said that they did not need to cheat to pass the English test.

A Pakistani student attempted suicide after his bank account was frozen, and became homeless due to the accusation of cheating.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The 2014 investigation into the abuse of English language testing revealed systemic cheating which was indicative of significant organised fraud. Courts have consistently found the evidence was sufficient to take the action we did.”


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