MPs debate TOEIC visa scandal

MPs during the Westminster Hall debate

MPs during the Westminster Hall debate

Earlier this week, MPs debated the government's handling of the so-called "Toeic students". The estimated 7,000 students had their visas cancelled after a BBC Panorama investigation in 2014 uncovered evidence of widespread cheating at testing centres delivering the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC).

On 10 February 2014 the BBC’s Panorama programme exposed cheating in some colleges which administer the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) for non-EEA students. In response the Home Office revoked or curtailed the visas of thousands of students it suspected of fraud. The evidence on which the Home Office relied in these visa decisions has been called into question, and led critics to claim that many individuals were falsely accused of cheating by the Home Office

During the debate, Wes Streeting, MP for Ilford North, cited figures obtained by the House of Commons Library, which said that by the end of September 2016 more than 35,870 visa holders had had their visa refused or curtailed on the basis of the TOEIC scandal, and more than 4,600 had been removed from the country. Wes went on to called the case “Britain’s forgotten immigration scandal,” referencing the recent Windrush scandal, and said the Home Office had placed students outside the normal immigration processes by denying them the right to appeal. He insisted that an apology and full compensation be given to students, and said an independent inquiry into the case is necessary. Other MPs echoed his calls.

Both lawyers representing the students, Patrick Lewis QC and Sonali Naik QC of Garden Chambers, expressed their disappointment at the minister’s response. Speaking afterwards to Professionals in International Education News, Patrick said "...I just don’t understand the minister’s response… there should be acknowledgement that ETS can make mistakes and [the government] can’t simply rely on the accusations that they make.” Sonali also criticised the minister’s use of the word "proportionate" and said that the push for out-of-country appeals does remedy the situation. "It’s not proportionate to treat everybody in the same way when you know your evidence may well be flawed,” she said.

Speaking afterwards, Stephen said "It was very important that MPs had the chance to debate this issue in the House of Commons. The MPs who took part made clear just how much hardship has been inflicted – unfairly – on a very large number of students.
“The Minister’s reply to the debate suggests that the Home Office still hasn’t grasped the scale of the problem, or recognised the hardship they have caused to so many students.  Thousands have done nothing wrong, but been robbed of their futures by the actions of the British Government.
“I will shortly be asking the Home Secretary to meet with me and others to discuss what redress can - belatedly - be offered to the students who had their visas cancelled through no fault of their own.”