On Friday, we were feeling rather cheerful. It wasn’t just the latest piece of scientific vituperation about the ‘Human Provenance Project’ in Nature magazine. Better still, the UK Borders Agency announced the suspension of their plan to attempt to deduce nationality from DNA and toenail clippings – though they still intended to continue using DNA to carry out familial matching.
Had you visited their website on Friday, you would have seen this:
“The nationality swapping – Isotope analysis and DNA testing process has been has been temporarily suspended and the instruction withdrawn. Officers will be notified when the process resumes. Family relationship testing remains in operation. To access the asylum instruction, please click on the appropriate link below.”
I’ve just clicked on the link to that cheering news, only to find this has replaced it:
“Alterations have been made to the nationality swapping – Isotope analysis and DNA testing process. This process continues to operate. The present instruction has been withdrawn whilst amendments are made.”
In case you’re wondering what ‘the present instruction’ means, this was the guidance to immigration officials on carrying out the tests. It helpfully included the following wording to use when writing to someone who had refused consent to the tests (this is a ‘voluntary’ project, remember):
3. Where the applicant refused to take part.
‘When you attended the Asylum Screening Unit, you were asked to provide isotope and DNA samples to ascertain your country/area/clan of origin. It is noted that you refused to provide samples.’ [Case Owners should insert reason(s) why the applicant did not provide samples by referring to the Screening Officer’s comments on the consent form which should be attached to the HO file (if not, also check CID ‘Notes’).]
[Use where a reasonable explanation has been given]
It is considered that you gave a reasonable explanation for failing to provide samples.
[Use where no reason has been given or a reasonable explanation has not been given for refusing to provide samples (do not use this standardised wording in isolation – refer to 7.2.2 Addressing Refusal to Provide Samples, within the Refusal Letter)]
‘You did not give a reasonable explanation for failing to provide samples. It is considered that a person in genuine need of international protection would assist the authorities of a safe country in establishing the validity of his/her application for asylum. Your failure to do so undermines your claim to be a refugee.’
Coerced consent, anyone?