Nomi Raja was held for 125 days following his arrest and has spent £30,000 in legal fees to clear his name for a crime he did not commit.
“At least I got justice in the UK”
In 2014, the BBC uncovered systemic cheating at one TOEIC exam testing centre, which resulted in ETS losing its Secure English Language Testing license and prison sentences for individuals ruled to have rigged around 800 TOEIC tests.
A Home Office investigation concluded that around 45,000 immigrants may have fraudulently obtained English language test certificates, but later it emerged that evidence it used was unreliable.
“In 2014 I had only four months left to complete my graduation, but they closed down the college. I would have [graduated] six years ago when I was 23,” Nomi told The PIE.
Originally from Pakistan, Nomi turned 29 in September, and now expects to graduate in one and half to two years.
“I’m going to restart [my education], I came to this country to get the higher education,” he said.
“They took all of the golden days of my life, 23 to 29. Six years – that’s the most important time of life when you can start your career.”
He had planned to graduate in 2014, before going on to complete a master’s in 2015 and return to Pakistan had he not got married during 2014 after being released from detention in the UK.
Friends who chose to study in Australia or Canada graduated after four years before completing their masters, and are now “earning good money as well”, he said.
“I’m 29 years old, I’m going to start my career now,” he explained.
“I got justice, I’ve been proven not guilty. At least I got justice in the UK rather than so many students I met when I was in detention that have been deported back to Pakistan, India, Bangladesh. They deported over 38,000 students. At least I was here to fight my case.”
Migrant Voice, a migrant-led organisation which has been advocating for justice for students embroiled in the scandal, said thousands of students – both in the UK and around the world – are still fighting for justice.
“While it’s great that some students, including Nomi, are now clearing their names and restarting their lives, they should never have faced this appalling accusation in the first place, nor had to spend years of their lives and tens of thousands of pounds in a fight with the government to prove their innocence,” the organisation’s director Nazek Ramadan said.
“Those years of their young lives will be lost forever.”
Others who have not cleared their names “will live the rest of their lives bearing this wrongful accusation of fraud”, with some lacking the “resources or energy to fight any longer”, she continued.
“They will struggle to get a job, to move to a new country, to build a life,” she said.
“Those years of their young lives will be lost forever”
“And the pandemic has made everything worse – support networks have collapsed, charities they rely on for food have closed, and many students are terrified of catching the virus and dying with a black mark against their name.”
Migrant Voice also renewed calls for the Home Office to establish a “free, transparent, independent” scheme for students to have their cases reviewed.
“[The Home Office] must acknowledge the mistakes they have made and do everything in their power to give all those wrongly accused their futures back.”