Nearly 50,000 international students – many of them from South Asia – may have been wrongfully deported from the UK after an immigration tribunal found that an English test cheating scam at one school was used to incriminate all the students who had sat the test.
According to The Hindu newspaper, the Home Office deported some 48,000 students after a BBC investigation from February 2014 revealed fraudulent activity at an East London college offering exams for the Test of English for International Communications test (TOEIC).
However, an Immigration Tribunal ruled last week ruled that Home Secretary Theresa May had used flawed evidence in her decision.
Tribunal judge, the Honourable Mr Justice McCloskey, said: “The evidence adduced on behalf of the Secretary of State emerged paled and heavily weakened by the examination to which it was subjected.”
“In the sporting world, a verdict of ‘no contest’ would have been appropriate at this juncture.”
One of the Tribunal’s key findings was the fact that there was no evidence proffered by the English Testing Service, a US company contracted by the Home Office to conduct the tests.
Mr Justice McCloskey said: “Almost remarkably, ETS provided no evidence, directly or indirectly, to this tribunal. The legal burden of proof falling on the Secretary of State has not been discharged. The Appellants are clear winners.”
The verdict could mean that the deported students are allowed to return to the UK and claim compensation from the Home Office.
The Home Office says it is “disappointed” by the Tribunal’s ruling and intends to appeal.