The National Union of Students has this month launched a report produced in collaboration with Bindmans, exposing the continuing effects on international students of allegations made by the Home Office that they cheated on an English Language test (the TOEIC or ‘Test of English for International Communication’).
The report looks at the very serious consequences facing those falsely accused, the lack of fair processes to challenge the allegations and the failure of the authorities to investigate the scandal.
Since the allegations first emerged at the beginning of 2014 around 35,000 former international students have been told that they must leave the UK on the basis that they cheated on a TOEIC test. Those who have remained in the UK to try to clear their names have been subjected to the full force of the hostile environment including loss of the right to study, work or rent. Many have lost huge sums of money, most are suffering with depression and anxiety and the problems have caused some to become estranged from family in their countries of origin.
Most students have not been afforded a fair and effective right to challenge the allegations in a court or tribunal to demonstrate their innocence. Either they had no right of appeal at all, or they were told return to their country of origin to bring an appeal, despite that fact that this would have presented insurmountable practical barriers in their ability to access justice. Even those few who do have a right of appeal cannot access Legal Aid, due to changes made in 2013 – when most immigration assistance (along with many other areas of legal advice) was removed from scope of the Legal Aid system – with the effect that only those who can afford to pay can obtain advice and assistance.
Judicial decisions at all levels have now queried the evidential basis for the allegations, and in December 2017 the Court of Appeal ruled that the Home Office’s approach in denying any effective recourse to the courts is unlawful. Despite this, the Home Office remains unwilling to consider any evidence or explanations submitted by those accused to demonstrate their innocence and has steadfastly refused to change its approach across the board – instead changing course only when ordered to do so by a court.
Bindmans acts for a number of clients who have been falsely accused of cheating in their TOEIC tests.
On 26 and 27 June 2018, the Court of Appeal will hear four linked cases, including our client KA, in which no right of appeal whatsoever has been given to those accused (rights of appeal to the Immigration Tribunal were removed from international studies in 2015). These individuals have had no means at all to challenge the allegations against them or provide evidence that they are innocent.
The denial of any effective recourse should be of concern to all those who are interested in access to justice.
This article was written by Theodora Middleton (Paralegal) and Salima Budhani (Associate)
Have you been a victim of the TOEIC scandal? We have launched the TOEIC Justice Project to provide you with the information, resources, and support you need to help with your fight for justice.