Report questions move to deport thousands accused of English test fraud

LONDON:A hard-hitting report by a Home Affairs Select Committee published on 3 June has declared that it must “seriously question” the Home Office’s judgment in light of the “extraordinary” decision it took to deport thousands of people on questionable or insufficient evidence of English test fraud.

Keith Vaz, Member of Parliament from Leicester, heads the Home Affairs Select Committee.

The issue relates to the deportation last year of thousands of students, a majority of who were Indians, on flimsy evidence of cheating in the English language proficiency test by the Home Office. Based on a February 2014 BBC Panorama investigation that revealed fraud in the TOEIC — a test to assesses English language proficiency for foreign students — conducted by just one school in East London, the Home Office alleged that all 48,000 students who had taken the test had cheated.

Keith Vaz, the Indian origin Member of Parliament from Leicester who heads the Committee said, “We are deeply concerned with the arrests, dawn raids and aggressive deportations of students from outside the EU which have occurred following allegations of fraud at English language testing centres.”

The Committee will conduct a full inquiry into the issue. It has instructed the Home Office “as a starting point” to explain the “process for out-of-country appeals (many were given no right of appeal before they were deported); the steps which will be taken to ensure a fair hearing; and whether this will include appellants being given access to the evidence against them.”

The Committee’s report strengthens the conclusions reached by an expert court (Upper Tribunal Immigration and Asylum Chamber) in March this year. The Court had raised serious questions regarding the reliability of ETS, the company contracted to conduct the tests. The Committee revealed that the ETS, which has made “millions of pounds in test fees in the three years of licensed operation, notably refused to provide any evidence in court.” It claimed that 28,000 refusal, curtailment and removal decisions have been made in respect of ETS-linked cases and over 4,600 people have been removed from the U.K.

“Despite the number of people affected and the gravity of the situation, the Home Office was unable to say how many of the tests related to people not applying under the Tier 4 student visa process, how many cases relating to the ETS debacle were currently before a Tribunal, or how many ETS tests were found to be valid.”

Among the thousands affected is Mohammad Rassal, a registered social worker in the U.K. who, despite having a party to sponsor him, is unable to work because of the Home Office order. Until that is revoked his university will not release his certificate.

“I have been waiting anxiously for the Home Office to get in touch with me after the court order revoking our deportation. I cannot move forward on anything until it issues instructions on my specific case. A week ago they sent a letter asking for the details.”