Author: May Bulman
Ministers launch urgent review after admitting letters have been issued to applicants saying it was ‘imperative’ they supply DNA evidence despite policy stating it is ‘entirely voluntary’
The Home Office has been accused of presiding over “punitive” decision-making after admitting officials wrongly forced immigrants to take DNA tests in order to settle their UK status.
The demands were contained in letters sent to foreign parents of British children seeking to stay in the country, despite the government’s own policy stating there is no specific requirement for DNA to be provided in immigration cases.
The department has issued an “urgent” review into the letters after admitting a number had been issued which did not make it clear that individuals could refuse.
The accusation against the Home Office comes a month after Caroline Nokes, the immigration minister, said in answer to a parliamentary question that any DNA was submitted on an “entirely voluntary basis”.
In one case, a letter was sent by the Home Office to an applicant’s solicitor stating that it was “imperative” they submit DNA evidence to confirm the paternity of their client’s child. This was despite the fact that the child already had a British passport.
The letter, seen by The Independent, stated: “In order to progress your client’s case it is imperative that your client submits the DNA evidence requested to confirm the paternity of your client’s child.
“In the absence of such evidence the secretary of state for the home department is unable to provide you with a specific timeframe to conclude this claim.”
The applicant’s solicitor, Enny Choudhury, said: “Not only was Caroline Nokes wrong to say DNA testing is voluntary, as her own officials told my client it was ‘imperative’, but it was also a pointless request.
“The Home Office already accepted my client’s child was British when it issued him a passport. Asking for DNA tests on top of that is an unlawful frustration of her application, delaying a decision by over two years, and all too typical of Home Office practices.”
In another example, a family of Vietnamese origin in Dover said that last year the Home Office demanded their children undergo a DNA test even though the UK consulate in Hanoi accepted that their father was a UK citizen when he registered their births in 2004, according to the Financial Times.
Campaigners accused the Home Office of being in denial about the “predictable consequences” of its hostile policies, saying it was leading to “bureaucratic errors and inhumane outcomes”.
Omar Khan, director of the Runnymede Trust, told The Independent that forcing immigrants to take DNA tests was another example of the “punitive decision-making” of a department focused on driving down numbers and creating a “hostile environment”.
“The immigration minister shouldn’t be surprised by inefficient and haphazard Home Office decision-making. But ultimately the fault lies with ministers and immigration policy, and their ongoing denialism about the predictable consequences of their policies and a refusal to engage with migrant groups,” he said.
“When the government decided in 2015 that being named as a father on a birth certificate would no longer be considered proof of paternity, what did they think officials would do? The migration target means that any deportation remains a ‘good’ outcome for the department.
“The punitive culture at the Home Office is driven by policy, and affects decision-making from top to bottom, with bureaucratic errors and inhumane outcomes the predictable result.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “DNA tests can be requested where there is insufficient evidence, but there is no mandatory requirement in our family visa and asylum policy guidance to provide it, and it is open to individuals to refuse. The application will be determined on the evidence that has been provided.
“However, we are aware of a number of letters which were issued requesting DNA tests where this was not made clear. We are reviewing the wording and have stopped any further letters being issued. The minister for immigration has commissioned an urgent review into this.”