UK Tier 4 student visa investigation report to be published

Sanwar Ali Comment:

There have been allegations of racial discrimination against the Home Office including allegations made by their own staff.  More recently the UK Visa and Immigration Department of the Home Office is facing investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission for Institutional Racism over the Windrush scandal.  A UK visa regulator sponsored by the Home Office is accused of institutional racism, and direct and indirect racism, and yet is refusing to investigate, and Instead are denying everything.

The National Audit Office (NAO) is expected to publish a report on 24 May, 2019 following an investigation into Home Office accusations of international students cheating on English language tests. In 2014, the Home Office revoked tens of thousands of Tier 4 student visas, with many people believed to have been wrongly deported.

The NAO launched the probe after renewed calls from migrant lobbying groups to investigate the Home Office’s handling of the situation. Following a BBC Panorama documentary in 2014, then Home Secretary, now Prime Minister, Theresa May, ordered tens of thousands of student visas to be revoked.

The Panorama investigation reportedly uncovered cases of fraud in the UK student visa system, including alleged cheating on English language tests – a compulsory part of a Tier 4 student visa application.

Crisis likened to Windrush scandal

The NAO has likened the Home Office’s handling of the situation to the Windrush scandal, with the government agency’s decision to terminate tens of thousands of student visas facing fresh public and parliamentary scrutiny, since the Windrush scandal was exposed.

A statement from the NAO said: “The NAO is looking at the information held by the Home Office on the number of people alleged to have cheated and the action the Home Office has taken to date.”

Campaign group, Migrant Voice, has been lobbying parliament over the issue. The group argues that many students have been wrongly deported on false cheating charges, but many have remained in the UK in an effort to clear their name.

NAO report expected on Friday, 24 May

The NAO is expected to publish its findings on Friday, 24 May. Meanwhile, an all-party group will reportedly meet for the first time in early June to investigate what happened. On Tuesday, 21 May several international students were invited to the House of Commons to describe the consequences of the government wrongly accusing them of cheating on English language tests.

In private, it’s understood that Home Secretary Sajid Javid has told MPs that he has sympathy for those affected by the situation. Mr Javid is expected to announce measures to rectify the situation following the release of the NAO report.

According to government data, at least a thousand people have been forcibly removed from the UK, while hundreds more have been held in UK immigration detention. Meanwhile, more than 300 cases are currently awaiting court of appeal adjudication as many attempt to clear their name.

International students and their families lose thousands

Since the NAO investigation was announced, many wrongly accused international students have spoken out about the devastating affect the crisis has had on their lives. Many say they have lost tens of thousands of pounds in tuition fees and living expenses, suffered from broken family ties and forced to take low-paying jobs to survive.

Claims of mass cheating on English language tests by non-EU international students emerged following an undercover investigation by the BBC’s Panorama programme. The investigation exposed clear evidence of cheating at two test centres where international students sit the test of English for international communication (Toeic).

The Panorama investigation sparked a Home Office probe, with the government agency asking the US company providing the test - Educational Testing Services – to review the 58,458 English language tests that had been taken in the UK between 2011 and 2014.

Educational Testing Services (ETS) concluded that approximately 34,000 students had definitely cheated, a further 22,600 had questionable results, while only 2,000 had definitely not cheated.

Following ETS’ review, the Home Office decided to terminate or suspend UK student visas held by the 34,000 who had definitely cheated and most of the 22,600 whose results were questionable.

Students appeal to MPs

Since the crisis broke out in 2014, hundreds of international students turned to their local MPs for support. Meanwhile, campaigners have questioned whether it’s possible that 97% of students, who sat their tests at supposedly Home Office-approved test centres, could have all cheated.

In recent months, Home Office decision making over UK visa and immigration cases has raised serious concerns. In March, a report published by the Institute for Government (IfG), indicated that the Home Office should be stripped of managing UK immigration policy.

Meanwhile, many campaign groups have claimed that the government is wrongly accusing students in an effort to uphold its hostile immigration policy and force people out of the country.

It’s looking likely that the NAO report will give yet another damning verdict on the Home Office’s handling of UK visa and immigration matters.

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