17 Mar 2017, 28 mins ago

In a landmark ruling, an immigration tribunal has condemned the Home Office for having based their decision in 2014 to deport students for allegedly cheating on their ETS TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication) exam on ‘hearsay’.

At the time, the Home Office took action following the airing of a BBC documentary, which showed undercover BBC journalists acquiring English language test certificates through fraud and deceit.   The Home Office’s subsequent investigation claimed that evidence was found that 46,000 TOEIC tests were “invalid and questionable” which resulted in 65 colleges losing their sponsorship licences and 50,000 students being either deported or barred from re-entry.

Two of the students affected by the Home Office’s actions appealed against the claims made that they had cheated in their test.  On 23 March 2016 the UK’s Upper Tribunal (Asylum and Immigration) found that the evidence these decisions were based on had “multiple frailties and shortcomings” and that the Home Office had failed to sufficiently prove that the students in question had in fact cheated to obtain their visa, before detaining and deporting them.

The summary judgment made by Mr Justice McCloskey and Deputy Upper Tribunal Judge Saini, stated that the evidence of the Home Secretary’s two principal witnesses was “intrinsically limited” and that “apart from the limited hearsay evidence…there was no evidence from the protagonist in this saga the ETS organisation”. It goes on to say that both students were “truthful and reliable in their accounts”.

The judgment “concludes that the Secretary of State has not discharged the legal burden of establishing that either Appellant procured his TOEIC certificate by dishonesty. The core of the Secretary of State’s case was that both Appellants had cheated.  The Tribunal concludes that this accusation has not been proven to the requisite standard.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “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.”

The Immigration Upper Tribunal that made the decision can set legal precedents. Consequently, this ruling may open the door for thousands of wrongly deported Tier 4 students to return to the UK and claim compensation for their treatment.  If you are potentially one of those affected then contact one of our specialist team members.