48,000 students wrongly deported from the U.K.: tribunal

A landmark ruling in a London tribunal could allow the return of thousands of students falsely deported from the United Kingdom.

Updated - March 28, 2016 11:15 pm IST

Published - March 28, 2016 05:46 pm IST - London

It was a damning ruling for the United Kingdom’s Home Office and its secretary Theresa May by the Upper Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) given on March 23.

The Tribunal rejected her department’s deportation of 48,000 students based on a conflation of an incident of cheating by students in one of the centres that conducts English language proficiency test to all students who took the test.

The students were found to have been deported based on flimsy hearsay evidence by the government.

In its judgment the Court was unambiguous. It said: “The legal burden of proof falling on the Secretary of State has not been discharged. The appellants are the clear winners.”

It said that the Secretary’s two principal witnesses did not possess “the relevant qualifications, credentials or expertise on what is ultimately a scientific field,” while the evidence of the two appellants was “truthful and reliable.”

The story of the deportations goes back to February 10, 2014 when a BBC Panorama investigation revealed fraud in the TOEIC — a test to assesses English language proficiency for foreign students — conducted by one school in East London.

The Home Office took this investigation in one school as evidence of fraud committed in all centres where students took the test.

The deportations then followed, with bewildered students being rounded up in dawn raids and taken to deportation centres, carrying only the clothes they were wearing.

Students had to return home in disgrace, their course incomplete, money lost, and with the badge of ‘cheat’ on them. Two students took the issue to the courts, and their victory in the case will now, hopefully, apply to thousands of others.

Nidhin Chand was an affected student. A single mother with a Master’s degree in IT management, she had got admission in another course when the deportation order hit. The uncertainly had severely affected her mental health, she said. “I had become a sort of sin eater for a larger fraud that happened without my knowledge.”

Rassal Mohamad, a registered health care professional, was another Indian student who was affected by the deportation order. “I am overjoyed by the decision,” he told The Hindu . “I have lost three years of time, effort, money, education, my whole life. I honour the court. We have not waged war on the British government, but only against the injustice of the Home Office decision. Now I look forward to the Home Office reversing the decision in my case. I want them to grant me a work permit so that I may start working, as I am already registered as a social worker.”

Indian-origin Keith Vaz, Member of Parliament for Leicester, has called for a Parliamentary inquiry into the incident. Joginder Bains, Secretary of the Indian Workers Association, which campaigned on the case, has welcomed the Tribunal’s ruling.

The Home office in a statement said: “The investigation into the abuse of English language testing in 2014 revealed extremely serious, large scale, organised fraud.

“We are very disappointed by the decision and are awaiting a copy of the full determination to consider next steps including an appeal. It would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.”

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