Darra Singh's review finds response could have been more effective, and notes complexity of immigration law
Home Office releases independent review into response to the mandating of DNA evidence for immigration purposes
11 June 2019
The Government yesterday released the independent review of the Home Office response to the mandating of DNA evidence for immigration purposes.
You can access the 72-page report from here.
The report was commissioned by the Home Secretary last October to provide independent oversight of the effectiveness of remedial action taken by the Home Office after incorrect mandating of DNA evidence came to light last year.
The Financial Times reported last July that the Home Office admitted that it had wrongly forced some migrants to take DNA tests in order to prove their right to stay in the UK.
An independent review was subsequently commissioned and published last October. Home Secretary Sajid Javid said at the time: "The provision of DNA evidence must be entirely voluntary. At the end of June, it was brought to our attention that there were some immigration cases where the provision of DNA evidence had been made a requirement for the issuance of a visa or the granting of leave to remain, and not simply a request. Such demands are unacceptable. I want to take this opportunity to apologise to those affected by this practice. In this context, the law states that the provision of DNA evidence should always be voluntary and never mandatory."
The review released yesterday was authored by Darra Singh OBE and examines the Home Office's response since last year's independent review by Richard Alcock.
The Telegraph reported yesterday that Darra Singh's review revealed that 1,351 migrants were illegally forced to provide DNA samples to the Home Office in support of their applications.
According to the Telegraph, the figure is almost treble the previous known figure of 449 and includes some migrants who had their applications rejected solely because they did not provide DNA.
Overall, Darra Singh found in his review: "Once the problem of DNA mandating came to light the Home Office worked hard, and with considerable effort, to identify the extent of the problem along with steps to prevent it happening again. They had some success. It is my view that with more appropriate professional curiosity, a greater attention to detail and better follow through on commitments, the Home Office response could have been more effective."
Singh's review also drew attention to the complexity of the immigration landscape, saying: "Years of legislation, complex and lengthy immigration rules, backed up by volumes of policy guidance make up the daunting system that must be navigated by decision makers to decide a person's application. This task is not helped by outdated information systems and poor data quality."
He noted: "The [Border, Immigration and Citizenship System], like many organisations, uses policy and guidance to interpret the volumes of legislation and Immigration Rules. The Guidance, Rules and Forms team told us that there are approximately 3,000 pieces of policy and guidance available to staff on the Home Office intranet … The department has set up a Simplification and Streamlining Programme (SSP) to simplify and reduce the amount of complex and difficult to understand information … but is yet to make a notable impact on the day to day life of decision makers. We heard from several people that due to competing pressures this programme is not sufficiently resourced to achieve its aims."
Singh also said there needs to be a broader debate about the value of DNA evidence and how this can be used to speed up the system when appropriate.
Immigration minister Caroline Nokes said yesterday in response to Signh's review: "While the Review acknowledges the hard work behind the immediate response, it comments that the effective direction provided by the Critical Incident process could have been put in place at an earlier stage. The Review also identifies areas where the Home Office's approach to sampling, data collection, and assurance in this instance could have been improved.
"The Department accepts the recommendations made in the report and has already taken action on them. Furthermore, beyond this specific issue the Department is focused on meeting the individual needs of the public we serve by improving customer service, ensuring we better protect the vulnerable and focusing on becoming more of a listening organisation."