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U.K.'s DNA, Isotope Nationality Testing Continues

3 December 2009 5:50 am
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In a written answer to a question from a member of the U.K. House of Commons, which was released by Parliament on 1 December, Phil Woolas, minister of state for borders and immigration, has confirmed that the controversial pilot program to examine the DNA and isotopes of tissue from asylum-seekers recently resumed, albeit with some changes. Here's the exchange with the relevant portion italicized:

Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his Department plans to publish the UK Border Agency's asylum process instruction about storage and retention of DNA and isotope data of asylum seekers. [301018]

Mr. Woolas: Since 14 September an instruction relating to the UK Border Agency's Familial Relationship Testing pilot has been published, and is available on the UK Border Agency website. The pilot-which continues to run-involves the voluntary testing of families claiming asylum at the Asylum Screening Unit, where there are suspicions that the children in the family unit are not actually related to the adults as purported.

The instruction is clear about the secure handling of samples, and their destruction at the conclusion of the asylum case.

Another related pilot was also started on 14 September relating to the testing of isotope and DNA samples. This pilot (which was also supported by a publicly available published instruction at the time of commencement) sought to take non-invasive isotope and DNA samples and to use matching techniques to provide indications of possible country of origin.

The pilot was suspended on 5 October to allow for a review of feedback.

The pilot resumed on 20 November and will be supported by updated instructions reflecting the steps now in place to anonymise data, and addressing issues of sample handling and retention.

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