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Friday, 26 October 2018

Sajid Javid apologises after Home Office illegally demanded immigrant DNA tests

Written by Jennifer McKiernan and Dan O'Donoghue

Sajid Javid has been forced to apologise to MPs after it emerged that the Home Office has been illegally requiring immigrants to provide DNA samples as part of their visa applications.

The Home Secretary revealed the children of Gurkhas, who were offered the right to settle in the UK under previous Government schemes, were among those affected.

The law states the provision of DNA evidence should always be voluntary and never mandatory, yet the Home Office said in nearly 450 cases immigrants were told they must provide samples.

Opposition MPs branded the Home Office "out of control" and said the scandal revealed that "the hostile environment lives on".

Mr Javid (pictured) apologised to the Commons and told MPs that the practice was "unacceptable".

He added: "I am determined to get to the bottom of how and why, in some cases, people were compelled to provide DNA in the first place.

"Across our immigration system, no-one should face a demand to supply DNA evidence and no-one should have been penalised for not providing it."

The Home Office said that 398 applicants were told they must give DNA as part of a 2016 operation investigating fraud, with 13 subsequent refusals linked to DNA provision and seven of those solely because DNA was not provided.

A further 51 relatives of Gurkhas had to give DNA and pay for their own testing, with four refusals for not providing DNA, although all four have now had that decision overturned.

A number of Afghan translators offered the right to settle in the UK were also included in a mandatory DNA testing scheme.

The Cabinet minister made clear to MPs that this "should not have happened" and apologised specifically to Gurkha and Afghan families.

He said: "In particular I would like to apologise to those Gurkha and Afghans who have been affected.

"I am sorry that demands were made of them which never should have been."

Prime Minister Theresa May's official spokesman said that Mr Javid was "right" to apologise on behalf of the whole Government.

The spokesman added: "There is nothing to suggest that the PM was aware of the use of mandatory DNA testing.

"The Home Secretary said he wants an immigration system that provides control and which is also fair. That is the view of the whole Government. It's right that structures and processes are reviewed to ensure they are effective and fair."

Labour MP Yvette Cooper, who chairs the Commons Home Affairs Committee, said: "The contents of the Home Secretary's statement are shocking and may have had a devastating impact on the lives of families.

"Given that this comes after the Windrush crisis, he will recognise this means things have gone badly wrong in the Home Office."

SNP frontbencher Patrick Grady said: "It's another example of the Home Office being out of control and a result of a migration target that they're still completely obsessed with, and more evidence that the hostile environment lives on."

Mr Javid told MPs that those affected would be reimbursed and announced that he had set up a task force to investigate any further breaches.

He also said he would be reviewing the immigration system to ensure it was "fair and humane".

The review will be informed by Wendy Williams, who investigated the Windrush scandal.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) PA Wire.