To get into his chosen institution, Bahar, now 44, took the English Proficiency Test for International Communication, a standardized test of English prepared by the American company Educational Testing Service.
A few years later, on October 30, 2014, Bahar received a life-changing letter from the Ministry of the Interior. The government agency accused him of cheating on the test and revoked his visa.
“My student life went smoothly, and I felt very good then. But when I got that letter, it ruined my life,” Bahar said.
After discovering cheating at ETS test centers in 2014, the company provided evidence that it could have affected 97% of 58,000 TOEIC made between 2011 and 2014.
Later, the Ministry of Interior began deporting test takers like Bahar.
Now two people who were forced to leave Great Britain are speaking PIE news how the scandal destroyed their lives.
Bahar, like thousands of others, insists that he did not cheat. He already took the IELTS test in Bangladesh and got a score of 5.5 – above threshold for the UK visa system.
After receiving the letter, Bahar spent eight months in the UK trying to get the charge overturned, during which time he was unable to work or study. He had to visit the reporting center of the Ministry of Internal Affairs every two weeks.
“The situation was so hostile that I can’t take it anymore”
Eventually, after suffering from depression and insomnia, he said: “I left the UK voluntarily because the situation was so hostile that I couldn’t take it anymore.”
“When I came back to Bangladesh, I started looking for a job here, but it was still difficult … I didn’t finish my course, so it’s so difficult.”
Bahar continued to fight allegations from Bangladesh and was cleared of cheating in 2019.
But instead of renewing his previous visa, the Home Office told him he had to make a new application – a decision he continues to challenge.
Bahar has spent more than £25,000 on legal fees since 2014 and says he has lost years of his life fighting this miscarriage of justice.
During the TOEICS dropout, 2500 students were forcibly removed, and another 7,200 were left behind, told they would be deported otherwise.
But the Home Office has been widely criticized for its handling of the scandal – 2019 parliamentary inquiry concluded that the evidence used against the students was “confusing, misleading, incomplete and dangerous.”
Last week, BBC Newsnight revealed that the Home Office used seriously flawed evidence to deport thousands of students accused of cheating in a test.
In light of this, we move forward #MyFutureBack campaign to help these students achieve justice. https://t.co/kCLB4zK2ub pic.twitter.com/mFy7cAgtcS
— Migrant Voice 🧡 (@MigrantVoiceUK) February 19, 2022
While there are some court hearings is supported that there is evidence of fraud, more than 3,700 people have won court appeals against the charges.
However, fighting for justice can be a long and expensive process that is impossible for many.
Mehedi Hassan, now 31, came to the UK from Bangladesh in 2010 to complete his degree.
When he decided to apply for a supplementary course (equivalent to the final year of an undergraduate course) at the University of Sunderland, he had to take the TOEIC.
A few years later, Hasan heard about a crackdown on suspected fraudsters, but he didn’t worry.
“I thought it wouldn’t affect me”
“I passed IELTS, I finished my undergraduate degree. I had nearly four years of experience at Sports Direct,” said Hassan, who worked in a sports shop while studying. “I thought it wouldn’t affect me.”
But in November 2014, officers turned up at Hasan’s home unannounced. He was taken to a detention center and told that he would be deported for cheating.
“You’re being treated like a criminal when you’ve done nothing,” Hassan said.
Although he maintains his innocence, Hassan has never dropped the charges because it was expensive and difficult to do so from another country.
He explained the upheaval he felt when he returned to Bangladesh.
“I was disappointed, I couldn’t make a decision. What should I do?” Hassan said. “Should I go to other countries? I had a lot of things going through my mind, like if I try to apply for a master’s degree in other countries, will I get rejected if they find out I’m cheating in the UK?”
“The impact of the government’s actions is still being felt”
Nazek Ramadan, director of St Migrant voicea charity campaigning on behalf of TOEIC victims said “the impact of the government’s actions is still being felt years after the first scandal”.
“The students, now proven innocent, must rebuild their lives after more than seven years in limbo.
“The impact on their mental health has been massive, with many still suffering serious consequences from the government’s actions, such as long-term mental health problems, huge amounts of debt and the loss of the best years of their lives. »
Migrant Voice has appealed to UK Home Secretary Priti Patel to explain how the situation will be resolved – a commitment she made to the parliamentary special committee in February 2021.
A Home Office spokesman said: “The courts have consistently ruled in our favor on this issue, but in cases where someone’s test has been identified as using a trusted tester and their application has been refused, they can still appeal the decision.
“We’ve made significant improvements to ensure such large-scale abuse never happens again – fixing the broken student visa system, overhauling English language testing requirements and revising guidance for healthcare professionals.”
Today, even though Hasan earned an MBA in Bangladesh and landed a job in finance, the effects of the deportation still hang over Hasan.
His wife would like to do a master’s degree in the UK, but he believes he will not be allowed to accompany her. He also wants to visit relatives living in the US, but is reluctant to apply for a visa, knowing it will likely be denied if he discloses his previous deportation.
“Every time I think about it, I feel horrible, I feel sad. It’s like I can’t leave this country anywhere.”