An Home Office internal review has found that over 400 people were wrongly forced into providing DNA samples to aid their immigration cases back in 2016. The demands were contained in letters sent to foreign parents of British children seeking to stay in the UK, contradicting existing government guidance.
The department has admitted that the letters were unclear and failed to mention that individuals could refuse a test, implying that they were mandatory.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid has apologised, stating that it was “unacceptable” and guidance was “unclear or wrong”.
“I want to take this opportunity to apologise to those affected by this practice,” Mr Javid told MPs. “The provision of DNA evidence should always be voluntary and never mandatory.”
The Home Office launched an urgent review into the wording of the letters, most of which were sent to Gurkhas and Afghan nationals employed by the government.
The report noted that DNA evidence was requested in 398 cases as part of a 2016 operation investigating fraud. 83 applications were refused – 7 of which were refused solely for not providing DNA evidence. Mr Javid has promised that those affected would be reimbursed.
DNA testing for immigration
Although the government has admitted that no one should be forced to take a DNA test, providing a DNA sample can sometimes be useful for aiding an immigration application or appeal. For example, if a UK citizen wishes to bring a family member into the country, but the relative doesn’t posses a birth certificate or the necessary ID, a DNA test can be used instead to prove that they are related.
A DNA test usually involves taking a cheek swab from both parties, which is analysed by scientists in a testing lab. The samples must be taken by official collectors in order for the results to have any kind of legal significance.
Activists in the USA have suggested using DNA testing to reunite immigrant families who have been separated at the US-Mexico border.
Where to get help
If you wish to get an immigration DNA test, be sure to use a trustworthy, accredited company that follows proper procedures. If not, the evidence may not be accepted by the Home Office. There is a list of approved testing labs on the government website.
You can also find impartial advice on the Citizen’s Advice website.