November 29, 2023

A group of students accused of cheating in their TOEIC exams after a BBC investigation found that two test centers were using “fake sitters” have now gone straight to the British prime minister in a letter delivered on March 21.

Despite some students being cleared of cheating, Britain’s “forgotten immigration scandal” is still causing suffering for many, a disability support charity has reiterated.

“It is shocking that this has been going on for more than nine years and that many students still cannot get justice,” Nazak Ramadan, director of Migrant Voice, told The PIE.

“They can’t clear their names. This accusation still hangs over them, preventing them from pursuing their lives, dreams, future careers, starting families.”

The scandal, which subsequently saw ETS lose its license to securely test English in the UK, led to the deportation of at least 2,400 students from the country.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s latest #WeWantOurFutureBack campaign follows a list of others including former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Home Secretary Sajid Javid and the creation of an APPG dedicated to the cause.

The Home Office was heavily criticized for its handling of the case, with MPs finding the evidence provided by the ETS to be flawed and unreliable.

“All these years, these students did not give up. They tried very lengthy, complicated and expensive legal processes. And still many people are stuck in limbo. Many cannot return home. They cannot face their families. Some of them, their families told them, if you don’t clear your names, we don’t want you,” Ramadan continued.

PIE spoke to some of the students involved.

Shana Shaikh

“I came to this country with a lot of, you know, dreams of getting a good education and getting the best education in the world. Unfortunately, in 2014 I was accused of cheating. And I was shocked and surprised to learn about cheating in the English test because English was not a new language for me. I studied English since I was a child and before coming to this country I took the IELTS exam and got a good grade in it.

“The accusation literally destroyed my future. I was unable to work. I could not study further. I couldn’t travel, I was literally in an open prison in this country. They just put me in limbo. I was broken mentally and physically. I have spent over £30,000 on the legal battle. I got a good grade in Pearson PTE after this allegation but they are still not reviewing it.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with the justice system. we are fighting My face is smiling, but to be honest, I’ve lost a lot of things over the years.

“My mental state has put me in a situation where I have a lot of health problems.

“We can not do anything.” We have no rights. We’re just surviving with the help of family and friends.”

Abdul Qadir Mohammed

“In 2015, the Ministry of the Interior falsely accused me [of cheating] in the TOEIC English language test, but I never cheated. I have been fighting this case for eight years to clear my name.

“I spent the family savings. My life is completely in limbo. We are here today to seek help from this British government, especially Rishi Sunak.

“The Ministry of the Interior still does not believe.” Yet they still refuse. My mental health is damaged. In the UK I face hardships on a daily basis. We don’t know what our future will be here.

“This time the British government must end this saga.

“With Home Office fees, solicitors and barristers I am nearly £20,000 in debt. My mom sold her gold that women wear in India to support me in this case. I will get out of this charge, continue my education and get my UK degree and Masters here. I have a dream. The Home Office has completely ruined my life here.”

Mrs. Sambjeed

“I came to the UK on a two-year visa in 2010. I then applied for an extension in 2014 but it took seven and a half years for my application to be processed. They ended up rejecting me based on TOEIC charges.

“I’m still fighting for my own existence.” In my country, I completed my master’s degree and bachelor’s degree. I took IELTS before entering the UK.

“My future is ruined. My life is ruined. I’m fighting for survival here.

“I have paid huge legal fees and I am still fighting. I am fighting for my own existence. I would like to return to my country, but not with this accusation. We need justice.

“You see my age, 46 years old, I have no savings and I have not finished my education.

“We are ready to give any English 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 “several hundred” students it has involved in its campaigns have won court cases “after years of legal processes and after spending tens of thousands of pounds”.

But many are still in limbo with nowhere to go, Ramadan continued.

“Whoever made that decision had no idea what they were creating, what injustice they were creating. They had no idea,” Ramadan added.

“They’ve already completed degrees and courses in the UK, they’ve just moved on to another course to fulfill their dreams, get the best education in the world, the best qualifications and come home proud.”

“The pressure on students is huge and they don’t know where to start. So today we decided to try again and deliver a letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

With the ETS saying 36,000 definitely cheated and 21,000 possibly cheating, Ramadan questioned how the government could rely on the testing company’s evidence.

“You want more students to come from other countries, you have to treat them right.”

“They mishandled the testing centers and then used their evidence, which the court, legal experts and others called very flawed. The Home Office still continues to use it and criminalize students and prevent them from getting on with their lives.

“You know, global Britain has to be fair, just Britain. You want more students to come from India and other countries, you have to treat them right, you have to treat them fairly.

“And you know what? It’s sad. None of this was necessary. The government could have dealt with it in a different way before when they suspected cheating. They could have asked all the students to retake their tests and that would have been the end of it and we wouldn’t be in the position we’re in today. I mean, some students are suicidal. A lot of them are on anti-depressants and drugs to keep themselves from harming themselves. They’re trapped and they don’t know how to get out.”

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