Overseas Students: English Language Tests

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:46 pm on 30th April 2019.

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Photo of Afzal Khan Afzal Khan Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Immigration) 12:46 pm, 30th April 2019

The Government’s treatment of innocent students has been unacceptable. Driven by the hostile environment and net migration target, about 34,000 students’ visas have been cancelled. Can the Minister tell us how many of those cases are ongoing? Are any of these students currently in immigration detention? What steps is she taking to identify and compensate students who were wrongfully removed?

The TOEIC visa scandal has been rumbling for years. The Government have lost case after case in the courts. My right hon. Friend Stephen Timms has been raising the issue in Parliament for over a year, and students have been protesting outside Parliament. The Home Secretary told Parliament a year ago that he would look carefully at the issue, but no concrete action has been taken. Does the Minister appreciate the urgency of this issue? Thousands of students are living in limbo, unable to work or study while they attempt to clear their names.

The Windrush scandal exposed a culture of disbelief in the Home Office, motivated by removal targets rather than careful consideration of cases. We were promised a culture change, yet the Home Office is again being investigated by the National Audit Office for its cruel and ineffective handling of immigration cases. Does the Minister accept that the years of suffering these students have endured is a result of the coalition Government’s decision to remove legal aid and appeal rights?

We need a swift resolution to all outstanding TOEIC visa cases. The students have asked to be allowed to re-sit the English language tests, and that is a sensible suggestion. The UK’s reputation as a welcoming place for international students is suffering tremendously. International students are vital to our universities. They enhance the experience of UK students and further our soft power abroad, not to mention subsidising the fees of home students, but reports over the weekend suggested that EU students will be required to pay international fees, which the Minister could not confirm or deny yesterday. We now have the TOEIC visa scandal. What will be next?