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Home Office investigated over English test cheating claims

National Audit Office acts as MPs warn scandal could be ‘bigger than Windrush’

A government watchdog has launched an investigation into the Home Office’s decision to accuse about 34,000 international students of cheating in English language tests, and will scrutinise the thinking behind the subsequent cancellation or curtailment of their visas.

More than 1,000 students have been removed from the UK as a result of the accusation and hundreds have spent time in detention, but large numbers of students say they were wrongly accused. Over 300 cases are pending in the court of appeal as hundreds attempt to clear their names. MPs have warned that this immigration scandal could be “bigger than Windrush”.

The National Audit Office (NAO) has been making preliminary inquiries into the government’s handling of the issue since the beginning of the year, and has now announced that it will proceed with a formal investigation. The body is expected to report its findings in late May or June.

“In 2014, a BBC Panorama documentary drew attention to fraud in the UK student visa system, including widespread cheating in English language tests. The Home Office revoked student visas where there was evidence of cheating, but its decisions have come under renewed public and parliamentary scrutiny in the wake of the Windrush scandal,” the NAO said. “The NAO is looking at the information held by the Home Office on the number of people alleged to have cheated and the action the Home Office has taken to date.”

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DylanThomas

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