Investigations are to commence over the Home Office’s decision to cancel visas of several thousands of foreign students, removing in excess of 1000 people from the UK due to allegations of cheating in English language tests.

Nearly 34,000 international students and skilled migrant workers have been accused of cheating in an English language test taken in 2015, and have not been given the option to challenge the decision. They have been informed their studies have been terminated and that they had no right to stay in the UK.

This came to light after a BBC Panorama investigation in 2014 uncovered systematic cheating at some colleges where candidates took the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC), which is one of many that overseas students can take to demonstrate their English language proficiency – a requirement for the visa.

Immigration officials detained some, whilst some lost their jobs resulting in homelessness, despite being in the UK legally. Others stayed and worked tirelessly to clear their names, knowing that returning home with such a smear on their names would have stripped them of their jobs and ruined their reputations.

The National Audit Office (NAO) is reportedly investigating the information held by the Home Office and their actions thus far regarding the amount of people said to have cheated.

The Watchdog reports that these decisions have come under “renewed public and parliamentary scrutiny” following the Windrush scandal.

Stephen Timms, MP for East Ham, said the treatment of the students had been a “disgrace”, he went on to say, “They trusted Britain to provide them with a decent education. Instead, they’ve been falsely accused of cheating and been given no chance to appeal. They’ve been left in limbo for years.”

Arjun Das, one student affected who came from Bangladesh to the UK in 2010 to study a degree in accounting was accused of cheating in the test and detained for a period of 21 days in an immigration removal centre. He said, “I came here as a student, but I am being treated as a criminal.”

Director of Migrant Voice, a charity that supports affected students, Nazek Ramadan, said “The Home Office’s handling of this issue has been spectacularly unfair and opaque, and it’s high time the truth was brought to light. We look forward to working with the NAO to achieve that.”

A spokesperson from the Home Office said “We have been supporting the NAO in its work on this investigation since the start of the year.  We will consider the findings of the report once it is published.”

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