UK Parl panel opens inquiry into treatment of Indian students

UK Parl panel opens inquiry into treatment of Indian students

UK Parl panel opens inquiry into treatment of Indian students

A British parliamentary panel has launched a formal inquiry into the treatment of international students, majority of them Indian, who were accused of cheating on English language tests and forced to leave the UK.

The House of Commons' Home Affairs Select Committee, chaired by Indian-origin Labour MP Keith Vaz, launched the inquiry into the UK Home Office response to the cheating scandal at a hearing on Tuesday.

"This is a devastating verdict on ministers and officials at the Home Office. It is clear that there are many innocent people who speak impeccable English who have been denied their right to remain in the UK because of the (over) reaction of the Home Office," Vaz said.

The hearing this week followed a ruling last month by the UK's Upper Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) allowing a test appeal by two of the students accused of cheating in their TOEIC conducted by a subsidiary of US-based ETS.

The cheating scam was uncovered by a 'BBC Panorama' investigation in February 2014. It revealed that immigration consultancies and international education agencies were charging fees to help international students with poor English get around English language tests (TOEIC) required for student visas and visa extensions.

An ensuing investigation by the Home Office claimed widespread problems with the test system and the National Union of Students (NUS) believes around 100 educational institutions were subsequently closed.

The scandal also prompted hundreds of dawn raids by Border Agency officers and resulted in the deportation of around 48,000 international students, nearly 70 per cent of whom were Indian.

Mostafa Rajaai, the NUS' international students’ officer, said: "Thousands of students have had their lives disrupted, lost their life savings and were then removed from the UK without the degrees they gave up their time and money for.

"The time has now come for the Home Office to explain its actions. These students will never get back the years of their lives they wasted but they still deserve answers about why they were treated so unfairly.

"However, this is not the end of the story and we hope this inquiry opens the door for closer examination of the other ways international students have been mistreated and immigration policies as a whole."

The immigration tribunal had concluded that the Home Office had failed to prove students had cheated in English exams before detaining them and removing them from the country, raising the prospect of many of them being allowed back into the country.

The language tests are part of a system designed to require migrants to the UK from outside the European Union prove their English is up to the required standard.

A Home Office statement in relation to the tribunal verdict said: "We are disappointed by the decision and are awaiting a copy of the full determination to consider next steps including an appeal. It would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage."

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox

Check out all newsletters

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox