Victory for Students

Article published by Ameera Nosheen of Fountain Solicitors

The Upper Immigration Tribunal found the Home Office deported thousands of students from Britain on the basis of unscientific hearsay evidence. The Home Office behaved like a tin-pot dictatorship: detaining innocent people, accusing them of made-up charges without providing anything to back it up, denying them their day in court and then deporting them.

Yesterday’s ruling could open the doors to the return of thousands of students to the UK, if – of course – they wish to come back to a country which has treated them so appallingly. And it brings to a shuddering halt Theresa May’s mass deportation programme of students. It also raises serious questions about the legal and operational functions – as well as the basic morality – of the Home Office.

The language tests are part of a system requiring immigrant students to prove their English is up to the required standard.

Home Office claimed that everyone who had taken the TOEIC test, written and conducted by American firm ETS, had committed fraud.

There were several problems with this theory. Firstly, the reason most students had taken this test specifically was because the home secretary had made ETS an accredited body of the immigration rules. These students had been funnelled into what now looked like a Home Office trap.

Secondly, there was no evidence they had cheated. The Panorama programme showed evidence of fraud in one school. Its journalists were baffled by how the Home Office suddenly claimed everyone across the country taking the test had cheated.

Then people started being rounded up. Families were woken in dawn raids, the husband separated from the wife and sent to detention centres ahead of deportation. It would have been a profoundly harrowing experience. These were students, not criminals. Their only crime had been to do a test recommended by the Home Office.

ETS didn’t actually bother to come to the tribunal hearing which was heard in March 2016. There was no ETS witness. It provided no evidence, either directly or indirectly. It was not even prepared to send the voice recording of the two people taking the case to the tribunal. Even at this stage, when the tides had turned firmly against ETS and the Home Office, they were not able to see the evidence against them.

For now, the unlawful deportations have stopped. But this case raises serious questions about the culture and morality of the Home Office and the people in charge of it.

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