March 5, 2024

Genetic tests used to prove nationality in UK

Protests from scientists

British immigration officials want to use genetic tests to determine the nationality of asylum seekers, a move which scientists have criticised as “fundamentally flawed science”. “Genes are not aware of national borders,” said Sir Alec Jeffreys, a geneticist at the University of Leicester. “Nationality is a legal concept, and it’s got nothing to do with genetics at all.”

And bioethicist John Harris, of Manchester University, commented: “Genetic testing may be able to tell you where somebody’s ancestors started out, but it doesn’t tell you where they’re from. It won’t give them anything worth knowing, and it’s very likely that what it will give them is misleading.”

The United Kingdom Border Agency launched a pilot project in September because it feels that many African asylum seekers are claiming that they have come from a dangerous and war-torn country like Somalia or Sudan rather than a relatively peaceful place like Kenya. The refugees are asked to give a voluntary cheek swab or hair or nail sample which the Agency says yields valuable, if not conclusive, evidence about their country of origin. So far the tests are only being used on people who claim to come from Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Uganda and Sudan.

According to AP, the agency originally planned to use the tests as definitive proof of nationality, but retreated after scientists protested. Now the agency declares that they will only be used in combination with other ways of determining a refugee’s nationality, such as language analysis and interviews. ~ AP, Nov 6