EXPERT evidence was ignored by the UK Home Office as it relied upon “dodgy evidence” and took “unnecessarily hostile action” action against international students accused of cheating in an English language test.

A report today from the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication) claims that key parts of the department’s response have been covered up. It concludes that evidence used by the Home Office to revoke the visas of tens of thousands of international students was “confused, misleading, incomplete and unsafe”.

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More than 58,000 students sat the test in the UK between 2011, when US-registered Educational Testing Service (ETS) was first licensed by the Home Office, and 2014.

ETS used voice recognition software and two human “checkers” to analyse the test recordings before concluding that 97% of those who sat the test had “definitely” or “probably” cheated, while just 3% of the results were said to be “valid”.

SNP MP Martyn Day, vice-chair of the APPG, told The National: “The whole situation is a damning example of Theresa May’s hostile environment. Many of these students have gone home and we are having to deal with legacy issues as others who remained in the UK, unable to work or study, their lives in limbo.”

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APPG chair, Stephen Timms, said: “One thing that struck me throughout our hearings was that evidence from ETS ... quite simply could not be relied upon. The inquiry concluded that the evidence used against the students was confused, misleading, incomplete and unsafe.”

The APPG said further detentions or forced removals of students accused of cheating should be halted, and those accused of cheating by ETS and who lost their visas should be allowed to sit a new, secure English language test.

Nazek Ramadan, director of Migrant Voice, added: “This report reveals shocking new evidence that the Home Office ignored expert advice, relied on dodgy evidence and took action against students they claimed were treated fairly – and that the department continues to cover up the full extent of those blunders.

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“The result was that tens of thousands of people have spent five years living a nightmare. One student told the APPG that the allegation was like a cancer that had infected his whole family.”

The Home Office remained defiant last night. A spokesperson said: “The report does not reflect the findings of the courts, who have consistently found that the evidence of fraud was enough for us to take action.”

They said the National Audit Office was clear on the organised nature of the abuse - demonstrated by the fact that 25 people had been convicted.