Calls for inquiry after evidence for UK student deportations ‘comprehensively demolished’

Britain's Home Secretary Theresa May © Stefan Wermuth
The Home Office is facing calls to launch a parliamentary inquiry into Theresa May’s immigration policies after a tribunal found thousands of foreign students may have been unfairly deported.

The UK’s upper immigration tribunal concluded that the Home Office relied on “hearsay” in making the decision to deport two students for cheating in an English language test set by ETS, an American firm contracted by the Home Office. All foreign students must take the language exam to meet UK immigration requirements. The tribunal found no wrongdoing was proved before the students were removed from the country.

In 2014 the Home Office terminated its relationship with ETS after a BBC documentary revealed that a number of students were committing visa fraud by cheating on the tests. The Panorama documentary revealed entire rooms of students in one London school had ‘fake sitters’ take the tests for them, and implicated immigration agents who were helping people pass the tests in exchange for payment.
An investigation that followed saw thousands of students deported.

But at Wednesday’s tribunal it was found that “The secretary of state has not discharged the legal burden of establishing that either appellant procured his [English language] certificate by dishonesty.”

A lawyer for one of the two students, Atif Latif Wattoo, told the Financial Times that he had encountered more than 100 examples of foreign students being either deported or held in a detention center for months because they had taken an ETS English test.

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“The home secretary detained and removed thousands of individuals from the UK on the basis of evidence that was comprehensively demolished in this case.”

Earlier this month, a report by the Chartered Association of Business Schools (CABS) concluded that the UK’s restrictive post-study visa policy is damaging to foreign students.

“The UK, as a destination, has become less attractive than the US, Canada, or Australia. This is largely the consequence of post-study work visa issues,” one business school dean said.

Meanwhile, a separate report by the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, David Bolt, revealed that 40 percent of all planned removals from the UK are canceled.

Some 34,000 plane tickets were canceled in 18 months to the tune of £1.4 million (US$1.97 million) by the Home Office.

The government blamed some of the cancelations on late legal challenges or the disruptive behavior of those scheduled for deportation, but said they were working to reduce the number of failed removals.