Home secretary Sajid Javid has announced the creation up a Windrush scandal style taskforce to review immigration cases where people have been wrongly compelled to undergo DNA testing to support visa applications. He also promised a wider review to ensure immigration cases are handled fairly in future.
Javid was forced to apologise after it emerged that the Home Office had illegally rejected some visa applications because applicants had refused to provide a DNA sample.
Legally, a DNA sample can be used to support an immigration application but cannot be a requirement. However, an independent review published by the Home Office yesterday found samples had been “improperly required” in some visa and permanent residence applications, and that some applications had been rejected as a result.
The review, led by Richard Alcock, director of the department’s Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism, said it was “impossible to quantify” how many applicants had been told they were required to provide DNA.
In a statement to the House of Commons yesterday, Javid said it was “unacceptable” that this had happened and pledged to “get to the bottom of what has gone on in relation to DNA evidence”.
He said he had established a task force to provide “advice and support” for people who felt their immigration application may have been influenced by a demand for DNA testing. Individuals who have suffered financially because they were wrongly asked for a DNA sample would receive compensation, he said.
The announcement was reminiscent of the taskforce set up in April to deal with cases in which members of the Windrush generation had been wrongly deported, detained or refused visas.
Meanwhile, Javid said, officials had been instructed that they must never again make DNA testing a requirement in immigration cases.
The Home Office would also look at whether mandatory DNA testing had been used in any other part of the immigration system, he said.
Javid also said he would carry out a broader review to ensure the way the immigration system operated was “fair and humane”. He said he had not yet decided what the review would look like but that independent oversight would be “helpful”.
“I know that the immigration system is operated by many highly committed people, but we must make sure that the structures and processes that they use are fit for the modern world,” Javid said.
“So I will review the structures and processes more broadly that we have to ensure they can deliver a system in a way which is fair and humane.”
The work would build on an independent review by HM Inspector of Constabulary Wendy Williams into the Home Office’s handling of Windrush cases, Javid said. “I will want Wendy to play a full part in this wider exercise,” he added.