MORE than 11,000 foreign students left the UK after being accused of cheating in English tests – but some innocent people may have wrongly been kicked out.
A new report reveals that 82 bogus colleges lost their licences and 25 organised criminals behind the “mass fraud” were convicted in a £21million Home Office operation.
Thousands of foreign students left the UK after being accused of cheating in English tests but new research suggests that some innocent people may have been wrongfully removed[/caption]
More than 2,000 people were deported after experts claimed they had got someone else to take the language test needed for UK student visas, the public spending watchdog found.
But the National Audit Office also found that some 4,000 others have since won the right to remain in the UK despite being accused of cheating, while computer software used to check test results could not be relied upon.
Sir Amyas Morse, the head of the NAO, said: “When the Home Office acted vigorously to exclude individuals and shut down colleges involved in the English language test cheating scandal, we think they should have taken an equally vigorous approach to protecting those who did not cheat but who were still caught up in the process, however small a proportion they might be. This did not happen.”
The scandal began five years ago when the BBC’s Panorama revealed that “fake sitters” would take English language exams for candidates applying for student visas, at £500 a time.
US-based ETS, which ran the test centres, used voice recognition software to listen back to the language exams and concluded that 97 per cent were suspicious.
The Home Office started cancelling the visas of those whose results were deemed “invalid”, but experts later questioned the computer test assessments.
Meanwhile six organised crime groups, one of which ran three colleges in Manchester, were broken up and their masterminds jailed.
As of March this year, Home Office records show 11,356 whose test results were questioned had left the UK.
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Of these, 2,468 were deported and 391 were refused re-entry to the UK.
But another 4,157 whose exams were deemed “invalid” still have some form of leave to remain, after thousands challenged decisions at immigration tribunals.
The Home Office said: “The report is clear on the scale and organised nature of the abuse, which is demonstrated by the fact that 25 people who facilitated this fraud have received criminal convictions.”
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