The British government has apologised to a group of migrants seeking to live and work in the United Kingdom after a review found that their applications were rejected when they refused to give DNA samples in support of their applications.
Speaking at the House of Commons on Thursday, Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: “at the end of June we became aware of some immigration cases where the provision of DNA evidence had been made a requirement – and it was not simply a request.
“This published guidance was wrong and has now been updated … Today I want to take this opportunity to apologise to those who have been affected by this process.”
According to the Guardian newspaper, a review by the Home Office found that at least 449 demands for DNA were issued to migrants, including 51 to Gurkha soldiers – Nepalese recruits who served in the British military – and some to Afghan nationals who worked as translators for the UK.
The paper said at least seven people, including four from one family, were denied the right to stay in the UK because they refused to provide DNA samples to prove they had family ties.
“No one should have faced a demand to provide DNA evidence and no one should have been penalised for not providing it,” Javid said.
“Mandatory testing should not have been part of this scheme and this requirement has now been removed.”
Campaigners described Thursday’s revelation as another sign that despite the Windrush scandal, the government “consistently encouraged policies and practice which disrespect the law”.
The Windrush scandal refers to immigrants from Caribbean countries such as Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados who were invited to the UK between 1948 and 1971 and later wrongly detained, denied legal rights and threatened with deportation.
Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International’s UK refugee and migrant rights programme director, said the Home Office had “once again been exposed as being a law unto itself”.
“The home secretary needs to face up to the fact that problems in his department are systemic, chronic and deep-rooted. Over several decades, successive governments have consistently encouraged policies and practice which disrespect the law and harm the people directly affected.
“This dysfunctional department cannot continue to be rewarded by being given more powers while vital safeguards, such as appeal rights and legal aid, are stripped away.”