report of the Independent Chief Inspector on Borders and Immigration found the policy of the UK Home Office to be too restrictive in the treatment of family reunification applications.

In 2015, the UK received 8,403 family reunification applications, compared to 5,498 in 2014. The Inspector sampled 181 applications considered at the visa sections of the Home Office in Amman, Istanbul and Pretoria. Although the UK allows for considering family reunification applications outside the Immigration Rules where “exceptional circumstances” or “compassionate factors” arise, this was not seen in any of the cases sampled by the Inspector.

The Inspector also expressed concern as to the Home Office’s decision in 2014 to cease funding DNA testing for applicants to prove family links, given that Home Office guidance remained silent on the possibility for applicants to obtain DNA evidence at their own cost. Since the withdrawal of free DNA testing, refusal rates have increased substantially: rejections for Somalis went from 17% in 2013 to 80% in 2015, for Eritreans from 15% in 2013 to 46% in 2015, and for Syrians from 9% in 2013 to 35% in 2015. The impact of DNA testing in this regard could be crucial, since nationals of countries such as Somalia or Eritrea face systematic obstacles to accessing documents to prove their identity or relationship with their sponsor. Lack of documentation to substantiate identity or link to a sponsor was the ground for refusal of 18 out of 21 applications by Somalis in Pretoria, seen by the Inspector.

In its updated policy on family reunion of 29 July 2016, the Home Office mentions that “The onus is on the applicant and their sponsor to provide sufficient evidence to prove their relationship and satisfy the caseworker that they are related as claimed. As part of this, they may wish to submit a DNA test at their own expense and from an organisation accredited by the Ministry of Justice – HM Courts and Tribunal Service.”

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