What DNA can't tell: Problems with using genetic tests to determine the nationality of migrants
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Abel, S. (2018). What DNA can't tell: Problems with using genetic tests to determine the nationality of migrants. Anthropology Today, 34 (6), 3-6. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8322.12470
Last July, there emerged several news reports that the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) had been using direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic ancestry testing ser- vices to determine the nationality of detained migrants. The use of DNA testing by migration officials is not a new phenomenon. For many years, genetic analysis has been recognized in a number of countries as a source of evidence for family reunification claims (Heinemann & Lemke 2012: 811). Nor is this the first case of DNA ancestry tests being employed to determine the nationality of migrants: the UK Border Agency (UKBA) trialled and later discontinued the use of these technologies as part of their Human Provenance Pilot Project (HPPP) in 2009- 2010 (Tutton et al. 2014). However, these are the first reports of commercial DNA ancestry testing databases being used in such inquiries. These practices are a clear cause for concern. Not only do they imply a misunderstanding of the scope of genetics to shed light on legal and political issues such as nation- ality claims, but they also flag up complex ethical prob- lems. What assumptions are being made here regarding the relationship between DNA, ancestry and nationality, and are they justified? Can detained migrants refuse DNA testing, or limit how their samples are used? How do these developments impinge upon other customers of DNA ancestry websites, and how far can companies control misuse of their services?
The article was produced as part of the CitiGen project, which has received generous funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, under Grant Agreement No. 649307.
External DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8322.12470
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/313102
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