Sanwar Ali comment:
There have been numerous allegations that UK Visa at the Home Office and organisations associated with them engage in discriminatory practices including institutional racism. The situation at the Home Office is so bad that many Home Office staff say that there is discrimination. According to a recent report apparently a fifth of UK Border Force staff have experienced discrimination.
In addition, it is widely believed that the UK Court system has failed those who have appealed. These people are mainly from ethnic minorities from the South Asian countries of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. There have also been allegations of institutional racism in the Court system. One problem with the Courts is that apparently the Home Office has a system where cases are “shored up”, which was mentioned in an All Party Parliamentary Group report. This is not surprising. The Home Office and those sponsored by them have had a system for years where highly defamatory statements, and exaggerated claims are made about you when justifying a negative decision. You are thereby cast in as negative a light as possible by the "shored up" system, and have a greatly reduced chance of winning an appeal. Sometimes, documents that might help your case are also mysteriously lost. It is absolutely horrifying that in modern Britain such things can happen.
Parliament’s public spending watchdog has slammed the Home Office for ‘rushing to penalise’ Tier 4 international student visa holders accused of cheating on English language tests, following an investigation. The public accounts committee (PAC) accused the Home Office of acting rashly, without checking the reliability of evidence.
The parliamentary public spending watchdog likened the treatment of those accused of breaking English language test rules to that of people caught up in the Windrush scandal. Following a BBC Panorama undercover investigation in 2014, more than 30,000 international students were accused of cheating.
However, the PAC reported that the Home Office responded ruthlessly with a ‘flawed reaction’, revoking Tier 4 visas before verifying evidence. The PAC concluded that the Home Office response to the saga resulted in “injustice and hardship for many thousands of international students.”
Thousands of Tier 4 visa international students affected
Since the BBC Panorama investigation over five years ago, approximately 2,500 Tier 4 student visa holders have been forcibly removed from the UK following accusations of cheating on the exam, which is operated by third parties on behalf of the US-based, Educational Testing Service (ETS) – a non-profit organisation.
Meanwhile, 7,200 of the accused have left Britain after being threatened with detention if they remained, while a further 12,500 people took their case to court to appeal. However, less than 50% (3,600 people) have successfully overturned Home Office decisions.
An excerpt from the PAC’s report, said: “It is completely unacceptable that, despite now recognising that hundreds of people still maintain their innocence, the Home Office has not acted to put right the wrongs caused by its actions.
“As with the Windrush scandal, the Home Office has once again not done enough to identify the innocent and potentially vulnerable people who have been affected,” the report added.
BBC Panorama investigation
The 2014 BBC Panorama undercover investigation allegedly shows footage of ‘organised cheating’ during two exams conducted by ETS. The non-profit organisation reportedly used voice recognition software to identify the culprits accused of having someone sit the English language test on their behalf.
ETS claimed that 97% of English language tests taken between 2011 and 2014 were ‘suspicious.’
Tier 4 visas revoked
The Home Office acted swiftly following ETS’ reported findings, investigating colleges, test centres and students before revoking the Tier 4 visa of anyone considered to have cheated on the Test of English for International Communication.
While some have successfully appealed, thousands have been unable to afford to challenge Home Office decisions following the cancellation of their visas. The PAC report concluded that the Home Office failed to establish whether ETS was involved in fraud or if the organisation’s evidence was even reliable.
The report states: “The Home Office has failed to take any action that proactively identifies the innocence of those accused. People affected by the department’s actions can appeal in court. However, this represents a significant financial and personal cost for those involved.
“It’s disgraceful that the Home Office knows it could have acted to protect innocent people, but has no procedure in place for people to raise concerns.”
The PAC report further slammed the Home Office for the absence of a compensation scheme to recoup money lost as a result of investigating alleged cheating.
“The system, designed by the Home Office, left the department with limited means to seek compensation from ETS Global BV, securing just £1.6m in compensation for UK taxpayers, despite spending an estimated £21m to respond to the cheating,” the PAC reports says.
Home Office adamant Tier 4 visa systemic cheating took place
A spokesperson for the Home Office, said: “The 2014 investigation into the abuse of English language testing revealed systemic cheating which was indicative of significant organised fraud.
“The level of abuse is shown by the fact that 25 people who facilitated this fraud have received criminal convictions totalling over 70 years. The courts have consistently found that the evidence the Home Office had at the time was sufficient to take action.”
Director of the Migrant Voice charity, Nazek Ramadan, has worked closely with many of the international students accused of cheating. Ramadan criticised the Home Office for ‘ruining lives.’
Ramadan said: “Working alongside many of the students affected, we have seen first-hand the extreme hardship they face as a direct result of the Home Office’s deeply flawed reaction.”
PAC chair, Meg Hillier, argued that the Home Office’s reaction to a systemic failure caused by ETS had resulted in ‘real injustice.’
Hillier said: “It is staggering that the Home Office thinks it is acceptable to have so little regard for the impact its actions might have on innocent people.
“The miniscule sum that the Home Office retrieved in compensation for taxpayers simply rubs salt in the wound.”
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