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EEA Nationals and the TOEIC test

Part of Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:00 pm on 5th March 2019.

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There have been a number of cases about the treatment of such students. In one, that of Assan, the Court of Appeal heard that because of the nature of the allegations, the necessity of oral evidence to defend them, and the fact that adequate facilities did not exist to enable evidence to be given by someone outside the UK, the out-of-country appeals model was not adequate. It would not be adequate in future were it to continue to apply to EEA students. In an earlier decision, in the case of Qadir v. the Secretary of State, the upper tribunal found that evidence used by the Home Office had “multiple shortcomings and frailties”.

So far, students who have taken the test come from more than 180 different nationalities. I acknowledge that the largest groups came from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, but 75 came from countries in the European economic area, including 11 alleged by ETS definitely to have cheated and 16 probably to have cheated. Given that the Home Office is still using ETS allegations as a basis for refusing applications, the main purpose of the new clause is to ensure that no EEA citizen should be disadvantaged in a future application for leave to remain in or to enter the UK as a result of ETS making an allegation of cheating, in particular given the increasing uncertainty about the reliability of such allegations.

The new clause would require the Home Secretary to carry out a review of what happened in the TOEIC affair. On a number of occasions in the House, the Home Secretary has in fact committed to look into it. On 30 April 2018, he was asked:

“Will he undertake to look carefully at the case of TOEIC students?”—[Official Report, 30 April 2018; Vol. 640, c. 46.]

He replied, “Yes.” On 19 December, when asked:

“Is he in a position yet to offer any relief to those students…who had their visas cancelled after being accused, often wrongly, by an American firm of having cheated in their English language tests?”,

he replied that

“we are still looking at this but we are taking it very seriously.”—[Official Report, 19 December 2018; Vol. 651, c. 821.]

So far, however, there has been no announcement of a conclusion.

We need urgent action to bring to an end the grave injustice inflicted on such a large number of students, whose only mistake was to choose the UK as a place to study. A simple remedy, proposed in early-day motion 2061, which has so far attracted support from more than three dozen Members of Parliament, would be to allow those students, including EEA ones, to remain in the UK to sit a new secure test, and to reinstate the visas of those who pass to allow them to complete their studies and clear their names of the allegations levelled against them.

I very much hope that the Immigration Minister will be able to give firmer assurances to people who have suffered such injustice at the hands of that American company. That might have happened some years ago, but the issue remains very live for those individuals. Members of the Committee might be aware that the issue was covered again on “News at Ten” this week. It is an extremely painful story that does not reflect well on the education provided in this country. I am sure that the Minister will agree that at a time when it is important for us to be an attractive destination to international students, this is an injustice that the Government will want to do everything they can to put right, and as quickly as possible. I look forward to her response.