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  1. ITV Report

Overseas students wrongly accused by Government of cheating in English language test seek to clear their names

Overseas students who had their visas revoked after being wrongly accused of cheating in an English language test are vowing to clear their names.

Campaigners say the treatment of the students stems from a hostile environment policy begun when Theresa May was home secretary and say it is partly to blame for thousands of innocent foreign students being branded cheats.

Many were wrongly deported after being accused of getting someone else to sit the mandatory TOEIC test for them.

Now an all party parliamentary group campaign is calling for people to be allowed to retake their tests and prove their innocence.

Fatema Chowdbury from Bangladesh had her visa revoked in 2015 after she was wrongly accused of asking someone else to sit her exam.

Pregnant with her second child, she has chosen to "fight back" as she does not want this false allegation hanging over her.

Theresa May's tenure as home secretary created an environment so hostile immigrants would not want to stay in Britain. Credit: PA

She told ITV News: "I cannot be a failure or a loser.

"I can not go back to my country just because somebody made a mistake and I should pay for it.

"I cannot do this."

Soon after her visa was revoked, Ms Chowdbury discovered she had advanced cancer.

Despite telling the Home Office this, she was detained for a week in Bradford, miles away from her husband in London.

A tearful Ms Chowdbury told ITV News "it was a nightmare" situation.

Charity Migrant Voice has campaigned on behalf of many students who find themselves in the same situation. Its Director Nazek Ramadan says their lives are in limbo. They cannot work, use the NHS or travel as they've surrendered their passports to the Home Office.

"They feel trapped, they're accused of something with no evidence against them or if the evidence is there, it's deeply flawed, as described by judges in the UK and they have no right to appeal," she said. "Their future is on hold."

Labour MP Stephen Timms is campaigning on the students' behalf. Credit: ITV News

Campaigners say the treatment of the students stems from a hostile environment policy begun when Mrs May was home secretary, alleging that the aim was to make the situation intolerable for immigrants so that they would leave the country.

The Home Office told ITV News that investigations in 2014 found widespread cheating in the English language tests linked to organised fraud for which 20 people were jailed.

But the innocent are mortified at being accused of cheating and angry that they have not been allowed to make their case or resit the test.

Labour MP Stephen Timms, who has been campaigning for the students, told ITV News that the current Home Secretary Sajid Javid is not doing enough.

"Those who have been the victims of this, who are still in the UK, should be given the opportunity to sit a new test and if they pass, should get their visa back so they can complete their studies.

"I've spoken to the Home Secretary about this.

"I've raised it with him in the Commons on a number of occasions.

"He's expressed sympathy.

"I met him in November to talk about.

"I'm now waiting for his response

"But I do really want him to get on and reflect that sympathy he's expressed in a change in the Government's approach."