The Home Office may have falsely accused as many as 7,000 foreign students of faking their proficiency in English. They ordered them to leave the country, with some of them saying they were detained and made homeless as a result.
A large majority of the students who were accused of cheating have not been allowed to appeal against the Home Office decision. They have not been able to obtain the evidence against them, or meet officials face-to-face so the quality of their English can be assessed.
The harsh treatment of the foreign students, who were in the UK legally, showed the extent of the “hostile environment” policy, introduced by Theresa May. According Patrick Lewis, an immigration barrister, the policy had taken root at the department.
The approach is responsible for the harassment suffered by some members of the Windrush generation. It seeks to make life so tough for illegal immigrants that they leave the country of their own accord.
In a judgement on the case of one Bangladeshi student, published last year, an immigration tribunal judge said that the Home Office’s behaviour was “so unfair and unreasonable as to amount to an abuse of power”.
“The highly questionable quality of the evidence upon which these accusations have been based and the lack of any effective judicial oversight have given rise to some of the greatest injustices that I have encountered in over 20 years of practice,” said Mr Lewis from Garden Court Chambers.
The plight of the foreign students began after the BBC’s Panorama programme aired an investigation in February 2014.
It alleged systematic cheating at some colleges in the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC), one of several tests that students can take to meet visa requirements on English proficiency.