Immigration: Dna Tests

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:15 pm on 25th October 2018.

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Photo of Diane Abbott Diane Abbott Shadow Home Secretary 12:15 pm, 25th October 2018

I thank the Home Secretary for prior sight of his statement on the improper use of DNA evidence. He will be aware that all our constituents, including those of immigrant descent, want an immigration system that is robust, but they also want it to be fair. The widespread public response to the Windrush scandal tells us how seriously the general public take the question of fairness in our immigration system.

We now know from the Home Secretary’s statement that the mandatory provision of DNA was neither legal nor fair. He stated that under the law, DNA evidence must always be provided on a voluntary basis. Can he therefore clarify that the demand for DNA evidence was, in itself, illegal, and if so, what legal consequences will follow? Members across the House will no doubt be shocked to learn that among the first victims of this abuse were Gurkhas and Afghans—men and women who put their lives at risk to keep this country safe. Ministers must clarify how long this practice has been taking place, and under what internal Home Office regime it was allowed or encouraged and at what level.

The Home Secretary spoke about reviewing the current structure and processes of our immigration system, which I welcome. He will be aware that the Law Society has said that there are serious flaws in the immigration system, and one indicator of those flaws is the state of appeals. In the last year for which we have records, fully 50% of appeals were upheld, which is an indicator of a system that is internally flawed. Waiting times for immigration appeals have risen by 45%. The Home Secretary talks about independent oversight, but what more effective oversight is there than a system of appeals that is speedy and that works?

Finally, I remind the Home Secretary that the visa and immigration service faces what will possibly be the biggest single influx of applications in its history when EU nationals who live in the UK seek to settle their status post Brexit. It is a matter of urgency that we put in place processes and structures that can guarantee a speedy, efficient and fair resolution of cases.