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Racial profiling hits a new low

September 30, 2009

Just when you think that state surveillance in supposedly free countries could not sink any lower, it has been revealed that UK Border Agency is finding a pilot project into using DNA and isotope analysis to determine the origin of asylum-seekers. This is not a joke or a scare-story. It is a real project. Science Insider has the details here. The Agency is refusing to say who is doing this research for them, nor has it provided any references to studies that show that what they are proposing will work. It appears that most scientists working in the area think it is based on entirely faulty premises and there is no reason to believe it will work. That’s only a minor objection compared to the political and ethical ones of course. As the story in Science Insider points out the Border Agency seem to be making a fundamental (and totally racist) error in assuming that ethnicity and nationality are synonymous. And this research would probably not got past any university ethics committee, which makes one wonder what kind of screening or ethical procedures the Border Agency used, and indeed who would carry out such an obviously unsound piece of research. It’s another example of increasingly unaccountable arms-length agencies (which have proliferated in recent years) using the ‘technical’ as an excuse to bypass what should be a matter of high-level policy, and indeed something that so obviously harks back to the bad days of Europe’s racist and genocidal past that it beggars belief that any sane official would have let this get further than a suggestion in a meeting.

(thanks to Andy Gates for pointing me to the story)

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