Indian students appeal to PM Boris Johnson for justice in row over English language test

Many Indian students are among over 200 overseas student signatories of a letter sent to United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday. 

The letter is an appeal from these students, asking for justice after being accused of cheating in a compulsory English language test six years ago.

The row relates to the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC), which is a compulsory requirement for certain student visas. The scandal is reported to have impacted around 34,000 international students.

"We were innocent but our visas were refused or revoked and the government gave us no way to defend ourselves. Our futures were destroyed and we were left to fight a years-long legal battle costing each of us tens of thousands of pounds," reads the letter.

"We write to you because it is within your power to right this wrong, to put an end to our detention, deportation and humiliation. Allow us to prove our innocence by establishing a free and transparent scheme - independent of the Home Office - through which we can get our cases to be reviewed and clear our names," the letter adds. 

"The coronavirus pandemic has made our situation even worse. Our support networks have collapsed, the charities we rely on have been closed, our friends and families are unable to help as they are struggling themselves. We are terrified of catching the virus and being hospitalised, or dying with a black mark still against our names. This is not the future we wanted or worked for," the students wrote.

The issue began in 2014 when the BBC's 'Panorama' investigation uncovered evidence of organised cheating in two English language test centres run on behalf of the Educational Testing Service (ETS).

Accusations included getting English-speakers to take speaking tests instead of the actual candidates and staff reading out multiple choice answers for other tests. 

In response the UK Home Office investigated colleges, test centres and students and cancelled thousands of visas. They have maintained that courts have found that all the evidence they had was sufficient to take action against the students. 

However, several reports over the years, including by the UK's National Audit Office and House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC), have flagged "flawed" evidence used by the Home Office against the affected students.

The students have been supported in their quest for justice by Migrant Voice activists as well as several parliamentarians. 

CtoI News Desk
CtoI News Desk – CtoI

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