There’s a bigger scandal than Windrush ‘in terms of people removed and lives destroyed’

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On 24 January, Migrant Voice organised a day of action and demonstration outside parliament against a huge immigration scandal. In 2014, the Home Office revoked tens of thousands of visas when thousands of international students were “wrongly accused” of cheating on an English test. It destroyed lives and highlights the hostile environment in all its horror.

Labour MP Mike Gapes said this affects so many people that it’s “a bigger scandal than Windrush in terms of people removed and lives destroyed”.

“An abuse of power”

In 2014, a BBC Panorama investigation claimed it “uncovered evidence of widespread cheating” among students taking the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC). ETS, a US company ran these [pdf, p5] language tests on behalf of the Home Office. As Labour MP Stephen Timms told The Canary, when ETS claimed: “almost everyone who’d ever taken the test cheated… the Home Office should have questioned it immediately”.

This scandal started when Theresa May was still home secretary. As a result, Migrant Voice told The Canary that 30,000 foreign students had visas refused or revoked. It says they were told to leave the country and thousands were forcefully deported. As Labour’s Wes Streeting said:

What we have seen in the TOEIC scandal is a Home Office response so appalling that it was described by one immigration tribunal judge as ‘so unfair and unreasonable as to amount to an abuse of power’.

Timms has met many of the affected students and said, “I am as sure as I can be that they did not cheat”. He also said that most students were told to leave the UK to appeal.

“Innocent until proven guilty”?

Migrant Voice says the scandal has affected thousands of innocent people who had no right of appeal and no way to defend themselves. It also says that in cases that have made it to the courts, evidence the Home Office relied on to make the accusations is “largely absent” and “where it does exist, it’s deeply flawed”.

Read on...

Many of the students who stayed in the UK to try and clear their names are destitute. They can’t travel, so most have missed important family events. Many suffer severe mental health problems. Migrant Voice claims some have contemplated or attempted suicide.

Migrant Voice says that although the UK relies on:

a justice system based on due process and the principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’. In this case, that was wilfully thrown out of the window.

Some of these students spoke to The Canary.

“I’ve lost everything”

One student – who asked to remain anonymous – came to study Law in 2010. In 2013, to renew his visa, he had to take the ETS test. The Home Office asked him to take it again, which he did. But he heard nothing back for over a year. He describes what happened next as “the worst part of my life”. In 2015, he was removed from his course and “forced to sign in daily”. “There,” he said, “you’re treated like a criminal”. He says he faced constant pressure to return to India rather than appeal to prove his innocence.

In November 2016, signing stopped “suddenly”. He says he was given a ticket and told to leave the UK immediately, without a chance to pack his belongings. Although the immigration officer confirmed there was no issue with his English fluency, he says the deportation order stood. After panic attacks at the airport and a short hospital visit, he was placed in detention for two months. Since then, he’s been fighting to prove his innocence, but it’s had a huge impact. He said he’s lost “all self-respect. I’ve lost everything, my degree, my job, my dignity. You’re good for nothing”. At times he’s questioned, “am I even good to live”.

He’s determined to clear his name before returning home because he doesn’t want to bring shame on his family:

I always saw myself standing in court fighting for someone else. But at the moment I’m standing on the other side, yet I’m not a criminal. Everthing I studied in law – that you’re innocent until proven guilty – that’s not applicable to us. We’re told we’re guilty without proving it.

“I’m in limbo”

Mohammad Mohibullah came to the UK from Bangladesh in 2009 to study Business Management. His is one of the few cases to go through the appeals system. He won a judicial review against the Home Office, which seemed like a victory at the time. But he says he was only given 60 days to find a new sponsor. So despite winning his case, he’s still living from short-term visa to short-term visa.

He told The Canary that the Home Office informed his university he could no longer study, despite winning his judicial review. He also said:

It’s not only about me, it’s about other people going through this situation. What about the students who didn’t have the chance to go to court? I’m really concerned what will happen to them? We are trying our best to prove ourselves innocent… I didn’t cheat, but I can’t study, I can’t work. I’m in limbo, I’m not leading a normal life.

“The injustice is grave, the numbers are huge.”
In 2016, a Home Affairs Select Committee criticised the Home Office’s actions. Migrant Voice said that ETS didn’t provide any evidence to the committee, including voice recording files that form the basis of the allegations. The committee’s report states:

The Home Office appears to have accepted at face value, and continues to accept, claims of widespread fraud from ETS – a company that was part of the problem, had already been discredited and is subject to criminal investigation. This is deeply troubling, particularly given that an expert witness has raised serious questions over the reliability and accuracy of ETS’s analysis and first did so well over a year ago. Despite this, arrests and removals have continued.

In July 2018, Migrant Voice published a report that raises serious questions about Home Office conduct. The report also triggered a Westminster Hall debate in September 2018, where MPs questioned immigration minister Caroline Nokes about the debacle. Nokes defended the government’s decision. Wes Streeting said it was “Britain’s forgotten immigration scandal”. Many MPs have called for an independent inquiry. Gapes also said: “The injustice is grave, the numbers are huge”.

“Hostile environment”

Timms said he’s been pressing the Sajid Javid, the home secretary, to take action. He said Javid assures him he’s looking in to it. But Timms feels that the situation:

is certainly another aspect of the hostile environment policy… here we have an enormous number of people who’ve had their visas cancelled or queried. Many of whom have been stuck in limbo ever since. Living in… destitution… while they wait for some sort of just outcome… It is urgent… if there’s not some just outcome soon, it will be too late.

He continued:

For many, there are long-lasting mental health problems and certainly, what should have been bright promising careers have been destroyed.

This day of action is vital to demand justice for thousands of innocent people. But it also highlights another layer of the despicable ‘hostile environment’ that the Conservative Party continues to enforce. It’s destroyed too many lives. For these international students, for every member of the Windrush generation, refugees, asylum seekers and every person this government treats with such cruelty, we need a ‘gentle environment’. And people won’t rest until it’s here.

Featured image via Pexels

Get involved

  • Support Migrant Voice, follow them on Twitter and Facebook.
  • Sign the petition to demand Sajid Javid takes action.
  • If you are in London, support the day of action outside Parliament from 10.30 to 3.00.
  • Donate to the crowdfunder if you are able to.
  • Write to your MP to demand that they take action on this case and other injustices in the immigration system.

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  • Show Comments
    1. To all Migrant people working here in U.K.
      and them that were born here in U.K.

      If you do not wish to be removed from U.K.
      “I suggest as a free voter No party ties to any in
      power or out of power (plus pay No fees to any party )

      You Migrant voters must get on to Mr. Corbyn Labour leader,
      To hold a new G.E. IN 2019,We free voter have already,
      asked him for a new G.E. a bit of pressure for Migrant voters
      would aid our fight for a new G.E. in 2019.
      Remember all Migrant voter that can vote?

      A new G.E. could see off Tory Govt that want shut,
      of you all as well — from the U.K.

    2. Immigration: The Life Blood for British Society

      Fattest in Europe, Most drunk, Least active, Least productive (in work), Shortest stay in maternity wards, 70% of European card debt, Highest teen pregnancy, Worst literacy and math results, Highest domestic abuse, Highest abortion rate, Greatest inequality, Highest rents, UK school leavers ‘the worst in Europe for essential skills’. These are the reason that there will never be an end to immigration.

      Peter Sutherland , executive of Goldman Sachs, former BP Oil executive,, member of the Bilderberger Steering Committee , and member of the Round Table of European Industrialists and EU Commissioner. Reported by media [ including the BBC] ,at a UK parliamentary enquiry , that
      ” EU states need to do more to undermine the homogeneity of their nation states ” He also stated that Western nations must be designated as ” settler nations ” and must take more unskilled immigrants, and that the immigrants should be able to choose which Western nations they move to .

      I wish all the so called undocumented aliens would go on strike for one day and bring the USA to a grinding halt. I am sick of the hypocrisy of the same shameless greedy right wing racist fools who want to use the honest labor of these hard working people on the cheap yet keep harping on about illegal immigration. Learn some history. The USA is this case the aggressor it purposely picked a fight with Mexico in the 19th century for no reason than a illegal Land grab. States like Texas and California etc where stolen in broad daylight. The home of the very people you dare to call illegal immigrants.

      We live in a globalised world. Everything that happens here is related to events elsewhere. Never before has the world had so many people. Population growth continues to increase. Millions of people worldwide work ridiculous hours in unsafe conditions for very little reward, and generally we in Britain, protected by our hard-fought employee rights, don’t think for a second about the life of a carpenter in Bulawayo or a tuk-tuk driver in Colombo.

      The migrants making their way here and to Australia and elsewhere – they’re just a fragment, the tip of the iceberg. Below the surface is a vast, snowballing mass of people being born into countries where the provision of services, food, jobs etc. cannot keep up with the rate of population growth.

      This issue pervades everything. For every green recycling box we fill each week, there is a ton of non-biodegradable rubbish being cast nonchalantly out of an Algerian bus window; being swept into piles and burnt in Ghana; washing up on Maldivian beaches.

      I’ve never understood the mentality of people who long for Governments to “look tough” on immigration. And I’m not buying the “taking jobs” lie either, if you can’t beat a non-English speaker to a job then that’s your problem, not theirs. The whole point of open immigration is to keep wages low, which is why there will never again be restrictions to immigration. The left support immigration ideologically. The right benefit financially. The poorest suffer as they squeezed out of jobs and housing.

      The world is a lot bigger than Britain. Immigration here is something we’re going to have to get used to, whether we are conservatives holding up a ‘keep out’ placard or lefties worried about exploitation. The only way it will ever cease is by attacking the problem of overpopulation at source, and doing this humanely is a huge, huge fight. Any sort of migration is a product of a multi-directional flow of information – it always has been, and today is so more than ever, as information is so easy and cheap to exchange.

      Someone in a desperately poor or dangerous country will know, via countless channels, that in the UK they can easily find work for £5 an hour (an hour!) and have their own mattress to sleep on in a lovely shed. That below-minimum wage job is there for them, beckoning them to the UK, because employers are given such a free hand, and because relatively few people with the legal right to be in the country will take it.

      Immigration is ALL about exploitation. The conflation of opposition to effective open borders with ‘racism’ is a deliberate attempt to divert attention from this fact. For the hundredth time, the idea that Europe opened its borders since 1950 for some ‘compassionate’ agenda is a lie. European elites… the ones the ‘left’ are supposed to oppose wanted to undermine working class cohesion and profiteer.

      Now lets get back to the other lie that those who oppose immigration are also suggesting that immigration is the root of all evil. Please understand that many many people understand that immigration is a symptom of the bigger problem of out of control global corporate capitalism. But immigration just makes it worse.

      Good. Open the doors to more immigrants please they contribute £££ far more than they cost us. I see bus loads of Polish and Eastern Europeans being shipped to work at the crack of dawn and they pay tax!! Their English able bodied counterparts you will find in Costas smoking fags and being too lazy/skanky to work. Their benefits pay for it so someone is paying tax for working hard.

      The overall problem when dealing with immigration, is the need to first ascertain where these people have come from:- If they are from Commonwealth Countries (most likely not Australia, Canada, or New Zealand – there the immigration goes the other way), this can be seen as 200 years of imperialism coming back to bite us. If they are from Eastern Europe, this can be seen as 20 years of moronic EU policy coming back to bite us. If they come from the Middle East, this can be seen as 100 years of never ending scheming and meddling in that particular region coming back to bite us.

      The people who make me the most ill are the people who decry immigration, then employ immigrant cleaners on crap wages. Yes, it’s much like the Republicans in the US, who stoke hostility against Latino migrants, while all the time depending on them as nannies, cleaners and gardeners. Well of course, they will support any policy that will strengthen their own position whilst damaging the rights of indigenous people and any politician wanting to retain British Values and Liberal values will fall by the wayside. So, the banker from Germany the cleaner from Colombia who cleans his/her office will all vote to strengthen their ‘own’ position, because of course their interests precisely coincide. Its almost as if you think they are all the same. And what on earth are ‘British values”? If you are talking about the kind of crap spouted by UKIP and the Tories i am British and i share no values with these self interested right-wing sociopaths. What is a British value? Why is it British? Why does no-one else in the world have it because they were not born here?

      The debate in Britain is becoming more and more polarised on the issue of immigration. Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats are all vying with one another to appear more and more anti-immigrant. Yet it is clear that immigrants are vital to the life of this country, and have been instrumental in creating much of what we now value most. Much of what the big parties are doing is to distract from the real threat to people’s standard of life and to our culture – the capture of our state by the interests of the wealthy and big corporations.

      An immigrant is an immigrant. He is neither illegal or legal.When does an ‘immigrant’ become a ‘native’?? All of us were immigrants at one time in the recent or distant past. Especially all white Americans, South Americans, Africans, Australians. How does their immigration policy sit with the fact that they just waltzed in and took over?

      We live in a shrunken world and millions of people are on the move; one of our biggest challenges is how we learn to live in proximity to difference – different skin colours, different beliefs and different way of life. According to a study by COMPAS, Muslims born and educated were given the impression of outsiders. The perception among Muslims is that they are unwelcome in Britain is undermining efforts to help them integrate into wider society. Most of them say that they have experienced race discrimination and religious prejudice. Muslims and Islam is promoted a fundamentalist and separatist by the western elite, which have negative impact on community and social cohesion. The number of racist incidents occurring in London Borough of Redbridge’s schools have reached their highest levels since record begin.

      To all of you idiotic, racist bigots. We are a nation of immigrants. There has always been immigration and our country would not have prospered at any point in its history without immigration. Read a book you morons. If every single immigrant left this country either foreign that was born here or immigrants who have moved here to study or work. This country’s economy wouldn’t be what it is today. Like it or not it’s a fact and the MP’s know this. This country has always had immigration! Hard working people are an asset to the UK, even some UK people drain our economy, that’s not racist! Just a fact! The present, ‘powers that be’ are hell bent on blaming immigrants & the impoverished for all of Britain’ financial woes & accomplish this through the 37 tabloids that are owned by two very right of centre businessmen & a very efficient, celebrated televised propaganda machine known as the bbc that is paid for by us to work against us through fear mongering, bias & blatant outright lies. The truth of the matter is that the vast majority of,”Waste-Monster” MP’s are a vile bunch of self serving, racist paedophiles & they will stop at nothing….NOTHING to preserve their sick, twisted, morally redundant existence….

      God has created diverse human beings to live in this tiny global village of one family. Creation by its very nature is diverse with different species, different communities, different cultures and languages. These differences represent the beauty and wonder but diversity is sometimes not fully appreciated, resulting in all sorts of clashes. The British society and Establishment must learn to respect and accommodate others, as if in a family.

      Western colonial powers made a mess in Africa, the sub-continent and in the Middle East couple decades ago. The least they can do is to accept people from the countries they have robbed and ruined. The western countries which colonised the world Yes it is a duty to give them back some pieces of what they have stolen !

      I’ll give you just one story of colonialism.
      Up until the battle of Plessey when the east India company took over Bengal, Bengal had been a major textile producer, exporting their sought after muslins and other textiles all over the world. Bengal was known as a paradise because of the riches this earned. Within 50 years the company had halved the productivity through enforced unfair pricing and taxes. Eventually the industrial revolution came to Britain and the new textile factories required a captive market. The muslin weaver’s thumbs were cut off thus killing of what was left of Bengali textiles. So the raw materials were taken from the colonies, processed only in Britain and then sold back to the colonised. That is the reality not that it’s taught in schools. In its most perverted form it was actually going to war with China to force them to allow selling opium in exchange for tea. Yeah – colonialism was a great thing…

      Europe is dying its natural death. It needs more and more immigrants to keep their societies alive. Without migration, European societies and economies would bleed to death.

      UK economy grew at fastest pace because of never ending immigration. Without constant flow of immigrants British society and economy would bleed to death. In today’s world we can no longer afford to live in a vacuum and ignore what is going on in the rest of the world. Trade, travel, and telecommunications have made the nations of the modern world more interdependent than ever before and today more than ever before – we need to desperately seek solutions to climate change, water scarcity, pollution, over population, and Third World poverty.

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