• Wednesday, April 24, 2024

HEADLINE STORY

English test scandal students launch legal action against Home Office

LONDON, ENGLAND – JULY 08: A general view of The Home Office on July 8, 2014 in London, England. Later today senior civil servant Mark Sedwell will face questions from the Parliamentary Home Affairs Select Committee over the loss of files by the Home Office relating to child abuse allegations from the 1980s. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

By: Kimberly Rodrigues

A battle for justice has unfolded as international students, entangled in allegations of English language test cheating, take legal action against the Home Office.

These students, wrongfully accused of fraud while seeking study visa renewals, are now fighting for compensation, claiming unlawful detention and lost wages among their grievances.

Despite the government settling in a few cases, the lack of a unified settlement scheme has been a point of contention, slowing the quest for justice.

Represented by Bindmans, a law firm that has seen 23 of its clients successfully appeal against their visa cancellations, the group is pushing for collective action recognition, The Guardian reported.

They demand redress for the myriad ways they have suffered: wrongful arrests, false imprisonment, financial losses due to barred employment, and mental health deterioration.

This legal push comes a decade after a crackdown that saw around 35,000 student visas revoked following a BBC exposé on test centre fraud.

While the documentary did uncover cheating, the broad-brush approach taken by the Home Office—labelling 97% of test-takers as potential frauds—has led to years of hardship for many students ensnared by this policy.

Alice Hardy of Bindmans outlines the profound impact on their clients: from secretive accusations and dawn raids to the loss of homes, jobs, and the ability to study or pay rent.

The stigma, family estrangement, and emotional toll have been devastating, with the fight for vindication dragging on for up to a decade.

Despite issuing claims from October 2020 to March 2022, with only one resolution reached, the firm’s efforts to establish a Windrush-style compensation framework have been rebuffed by the Home Office.

Hardy voices deep disappointment at this stance, highlighting a missed opportunity for the Home Office to amend the harm caused.

One student, represented by another legal firm, has been compensated following accusations of test cheating. In 2021, Mohammad Bhuiyan was awarded approximately £13,500 by the Home Office for being wrongfully detained for 47 days due to claims he cheated on an English language test.

However, the Home Office maintains its actions were justified by the scale of fraud uncovered in 2014, standing by the court’s backing of their measures.

A Home Office spokesperson is quoted as saying, “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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