Daniel Kawczynki is MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham.
Thirteen years ago, I was elected to the House of Commons as the Member of Parliament for Shrewsbury and Atcham. This happened 27 years after I first arrived on these shores from my native Poland, and I am incredibly proud to be the first Polish-born British Member of Parliament.
There are of course many reasons why the UK is one of the best countries in the world to come and live, including our thriving democracy, strong and resilient economy, and open and compassionate society. It is exactly because of these national strengths that the UK must have a fair but robust immigration system.
The UK’s withdrawal from the European Union is a seminal moment at a pivotal point in our nation’s history, and leaving the EU will allow the British Government to build a fair and controlled migration system once EU free movement has come to an end.
I am clear that when people voted to leave the EU, they did so in the knowledge that free movement would end. This means bringing net migration down to sustainable levels while continuing to attract and retain those who come to the UK to work and bring significant benefits. I am glad ministers now share my view that this should not include an open door to those who do not.
It has always angered me that any view expressed calling for strong national borders and controls is met with accusations of bigotry. I accept that for many across Europe, walls and fences are signs of oppression and occupation, but for the British our natural border represents self-determination, safety, and a safeguard of the peace.
I am therefore incredibly frustrated by the apology made in the House of Commons by Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, relating to DNA testing and immigration.
I am unashamedly in favour of providing our hard-working border and immigration officials with all the tools available to deliver a fair and robust immigration system. My support for the use of DNA testing in immigration cases stems from a desire to see a reduction in the time it takes for immigration cases to be dealt with. Indeed, the use of DNA testing would only provide a more reliable way to keep our borders secure, it would also provide greater certainty to the applicant and ensure they are not left in limbo. Had I been asked to provide DNA when I came to this country in 1978, I would have happily done so.
The use of DNA for immigration cases is obvious – in some cases involving paperwork, a determination cannot be made until the paperwork has been back and forth between the Home Office and the applicant. With DNA, a straightforward analysis can be undertaken, which in turn speeds up the process. This is good for secure borders and good for the applicant.
The use of biometrics is not repressive. On the contrary, it is an efficient and effective use of technology. In Canada, for example, it is now a requirement if you are from Europe, the Middle East, and Africa to provide your fingerprints and photo when applying for a visitor visa, study or work permit, or permanent residence. This information is encrypted and sent to a secure Government database, illustrating how a secure use of personal information can be effectively used to determine the outcome of an immigration-related application.
Removing the use of DNA evidence and biometrics from visa applications would be a backwards step for national security, depriving our border officials of important information. I urge the Home Secretary to give serious consideration to mandatory DNA testing in all visa applications and to ignore criticism from the Labour Party, who are simply trying to capitalise on the very legitimate immigration issues experienced by people of the Windrush Generation.