OVERSEAS students have suffered a “detrimental impact” on their lives through the Home Office’s flawed reaction to a private company’s failure that resulted in more than 50,000 of them being accused of cheating in an English language exam.

In a report issued yesterday, the powerful Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said that despite being aware of abuses in the Tier-4 student visa system, the department designed a language testing system that failed to recognise the potential for cheating.

MPs said it left the Home Office with limited means to pursue compensation from the company – ETS Global BV – securing just £1.6 million after spending an estimated £21m in response to the deceit.

The Home Office’s decision to revoke the visas of thousands of individuals before properly verifying evidence provided by ETS has led to injustice and hardship for many people.

PAC chair Meg Hillier said: “The Home Office’s flawed reaction to a systemic failure by a private company has led to real injustice for many thousands of overseas students taking English language tests.

“It is staggering that the Home Office thinks it is acceptable to have so little regard for the impact its actions might have on innocent people.”

The charity Migrant Voice has been working with students since 2017 and helped the PAC in its inquiry.

Its director, Nazek Ramadan, welcomed the report – the third in five months to expose new and damning details of the UK Government’s treatment of the students.

He said: “We particularly welcome the recommendation for the Home Office to urgently design and implement a genuine means for innocent students to clear their names, and we urge the Home Secretary to make that happen.

“Working alongside many of the students affected, we have seen first-hand the extreme hardship they face every single day as a direct result of the Home Office’s deeply flawed reaction.

“We’re living in an open prison, they tell us, and our hope of ever being released is fading.

“In July, we heard the former Home Secretary finally acknowledge that the Government has a duty to do more to help those students who were wrongly accused – words these students have waited five years to hear.

“But what they need most is action – a real resolution that allows them to clear their names and restart their lives. We urge the Home Secretary to read this report and take the necessary action to end this injustice and demonstrate that international students truly are welcome in this country.”