MP Stephen Timms, longtime supporter of the affected students, has complained to the Home Office about the case of a student detained overnight.
The PIE News understands that he was arrested and held overnight in south-east London, after concerns over his immigration status, initially raised because of a parking violation. He informed the police he had a pending case with the Home Office, but initially was told there was no record of it.
He was released the next day after his solicitor presented proof of his case, and after Stephen Timms MP, a long-time supporter of the campaign, contacted the Home Secretary’s office.
Nazek Ramadan, director of Migrant Voice, the charity supporting the students told The PIE News, “It is appalling that the Home Office is continuing to detain these students as recently as last Wednesday. This is not something that can be dealt with in a year or even a month – it needs to be rectified now.”
“It’s time the government promised to stop these detainments and deportations and finally allow all of the students accused to sit a new secure English test, clear their names, and continue with their lives.”
“It’s time the government promised to stop these detainments and deportations”
According to Migrant Voice and the students’ group, English Language Test Victims, there were two incidents over the last week – this follows other incidents – and both organisations fear they were only temporarily resolved.
Sheikh Amin, leader of English Language Test Victims, told The PIE he was informed of the situation by Ramadan late on Tuesday night, and swiftly contacted Timms’s office.
Speaking to The PIE, Timms said he had already written about the case of this particular student to the Home Secretary in November 2018, but is still waiting for an answer.
“[The student] should certainly not have been detained, and my office made that point to the Home Secretary’s office,” he said.
Another student was told to report to a UK Border Agency office on February 25 (those with a pending immigration case may be required to attend regular appointments), but on February 17, an immigration enforcement team visited his house in the early morning with a search warrant.
He avoided detention as he was not at home, but he is said to be scared of the threat of detention.
However, Migrant Voice said that since he has a case pending with the Home Office, he should not be detained or deported.
“[The student] is confused, scared, mentally ill – and can’t even sleep,” Amin added.
Amin said the campaign group is concerned that the threat of detention and deportation could frighten some students into giving up their legal battle.
“We clearly demand to the Secretary of State that removal and detention must be stopped against all students until they have finished their legal battle,” he added.
Timms explained that steps are being taken to put pressure on the Home Office to solve the situation: an early day motion was tabled in Parliament last week, and an All Party Parliamentary Group, announced at a campaign event last month, is being developed.
“We are doing all we can to resolve what I think is a grave injustice, that very many of these students have suffered,” he said.
“I am hoping that we will get some progress in a short time. We are doing all we can to push the Home Office to make an announcement of what it is going to do, given that the Home Secretary told us he’s looking at it, we need to know the answer.”
“We are doing all we can to resolve what I think is a grave injustice”
Ramandan of Migrant Voice told The PIE that these are only the latest in a string of incidents involving this group of students.
“We know that between 2014 and 2016, 1,400 international students were detained and more than 1,000 were removed from the UK by the Home Office,” she said.
“That’s heart-wrenching enough when you know there’s little or no evidence against them, and they had no chance to appeal.”
In April and November 2018 respectively, a student from India and one from Pakistan were arrested, detained, and later released, Migrant Voice confirmed.
A Home Office spokesperson declined to comment on individual cases.
“The investigations in 2014 into the abuse of English language testing revealed systemic cheating which was indicative of significant organised fraud. The scale of this is shown by the fact that over 20 people who facilitated this fraud have received criminal convictions, with prison sentences totalling 68 years,” they said.
Asked whether the Home Office will reassess the allegations against this group of students, the spokesperson explained the majority of individuals linked to the fraud were sponsored by private colleges about which the Home Office already had significant concerns about before 2014.
Timms commented that while some may have taken the TOEIC test to study at private colleges, others studied at universities and very reputable colleges, including private ones.
“That does not remedy the injustice that has been suffered by those who were falsely accused to cheating,” he said.