Where’s the well: DNA evidence, personal narratives and unpredictability in Finnish family reunification

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For people on the move, family reunification has become a major ‘channel’ to Europe, and the ‘right to family’ is a widely recognized principle in international human rights protection and domestic legislations. Yet in practice exercising this ‘right’ is often difficult and migration buraucracies leave applicants unsure not only of the outcome of their applications but of the criteria that are relied on in the decisions. In this article we analyze this dynamic via the case study of Finland and a close analysis of 253 appeals on family reunification applications at the Administrative Court of Helsinki between 2003 and 2014. Our sample includes all decisions that mention ‘DNA,’ which has become a routinely utilized biotechnological tool in family reunification applications internationally. Our analysis focuses particularly on the 51 cases in which DNA testing has confirmed the existence of biological family ties but the applications have, nevertheless, been rejected. This article is contextualized in scholarship analyzing the recent spread of biotechnological tools and biometrics in immigration management. Simultaneously we discuss the quest for ‘information,’ ‘certainty’ and ‘truth’ that characterize family reunification applications. Relying on the recently flourished ethnography of documents, this article is ultimately about the indeterminacy and intrinsic superficiality of ‘the law.’
Original languageEnglish
JournalMigration studies
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)245–265
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 513 Law
  • 5143 Social and cultural anthropology

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