Justice for international students wrongly accused of cheating by the UK Home Office
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“Since 2015 I have suffered from mental health problems, and I’m still in therapy. I still cannot sleep. During the night I hit myself against the wall and I wake up because I’m hurting myself. Many times I thought to commit suicide, but I cannot because of my family. I’m an only child.”
Hussain is one of thousands of students wrongly accused of cheating on an English language test known as TOEIC in 2014. Many were deported and others have spent the last five years in a desperate bid to clear their names. It's a staggering example of the hostile environment in action.
In 2014, Hussain was studying computer science in London and looking ahead to finishing his course and returning to Bangladesh, his home country.
One day, he was told by his university that he had been withdrawn as the Home Office was accusing him of cheating on the TOEIC test by using a proxy to sit his oral exam.
Hussain was shocked. He hadn’t cheated and had no reason to – his whole education, from primary school to university, had been in English.
“I didn’t have any reason to cheat at the TOEIC test,” he says. “That’s a very simple test.”
His visa was cancelled and he was stripped of his right to work, study or rent a house in the UK. Desperate to clear his name, he set about trying to fight the allegation in court.
But with no right to appeal the Home Office’s decision and with no money to pay a solicitor, Hussain quickly became stuck in a legal labyrinth.
Almost five years on, he’s still fighting but losing hope.
See media coverage of this issue in the Financial Times, CNN (here and here), The Guardian, The Independent (here and here), The Canary, Huffington Post (here and here), and on ITV News, ITV London, BBC London, London Live, and BBC Asian Network. Follow campaign updates on Twitter from the students and Migrant Voice.
NO EVIDENCE, NO APPEAL RIGHT
The government has failed to present any evidence against Hussain and most of the others. Where there is evidence, it’s often spectacularly flawed.
There’s Amin, for example, who was accused of cheating on an English test in Leicester but he’s never been to Leicester and has proof he travelled to a London test centre on that day. And Om, who never took the test at all.
Yet with no in-country appeal right, the students had no way of fighting the allegations. In fact, someone facing a criminal allegation has a better chance of clearing their name than Hussain and the others.
Many are destitute and suffering severe health problems. Many have contemplated or attempted suicide. Unable to travel home to see their families, most have missed the funerals and weddings of loved ones.
Those who have left the UK can’t get work and many have been rejected by their families.
Even the handful of students who have battled their way through to win their cases are no better off.
“I know some students who won the appeal, but they weren’t able to complete their education because the universities don’t accept them back," says Hussain. "They weren’t given any clarification letter to show their innocence, and had [60 days] to make a new visa application. In these conditions, no university will accept us.”
WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN
Since 2017, London-based charity Migrant Voice has been working with the students to fight for justice.
The “My Future Back” campaign is calling for the UK government to:
- Let the students who were accused sit a new English test.
- Clear the names of those who pass and remove the criminal allegations against them.
- Give them back the status they lost and grant them enough time to complete their studies.
Five years of suffering is too long. Let 2019 be the year these students get their futures back.
To donate to this campaign, click here.
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