Policy ForumGenetics and Society

Using DNA to reunify separated migrant families

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Science  11 Jun 2021:
Vol. 372, Issue 6547, pp. 1154-1156
DOI: 10.1126/science.abh3979

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Summary

Family separation—whether caused by armed conflict, repressive regimes, disasters, or immigration policies—traumatizes children and parents and can have long-term impacts on physical and mental health (1). It is therefore imperative to develop and deploy policies and tools to support prompt and safe family reunifications and address wrongful government-imposed separations. Given the particular legal, psychological, and medical vulnerabilities of separated migrant families, we propose here a replicable, scalable, and sustainable framework to collect and manage sensitive DNA data to support the reunification of families in a manner that is secure, ethical, and humane, responding to families' needs while minimizing potential risks of government misuse of sensitive data (2). Whether or not families ultimately reunite should be primarily the choice of each family with guidance from supporting agencies, taking into account the child's best interests and family members' safety (1). But lack of tools to connect families, an inability to verify genetic relationships when applicable, and fears of the sensitivity of DNA data should not be barriers.

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