Following the protests of refugee advocates and journalists – and not through any regulatory or oversight governing body – the project came under widespread scrutiny. In the process, academic scientists expressed shock and disgust, insisting that the techniques used could not diagnose nationality in the way the project assumed.74 David Balding, a population geneticist at Imperial College London, noted that “genes don’t respect national borders, as many legitimate citizens are migrants or direct descendants of migrants, and many national borders split ethnic groups.”75 Mark Thomas, who called the HPPP “horrifying,” contended that determining a person’s ancestry – as distinct from nationality – is more complicated than many believe: “[mitochondrial] DNA will never have the resolution to specify a country of origin. Many DNA ancestry testing companies have sprung up over the last 10 years, often based on mtDNA, but what they are selling is little better than genetic astrology,” he said. “Dense genomic SNP data does [sic] have some resolution … but not at a very local scale, and with considerable errors.”76 Likewise, Alec Jeffries, one of the pioneers of human DNA fingerprinting, wrote:
The Borders Agency is clearly making huge and unwarranted assumptions about population structure in Africa; the extensive research needed to determine population structure and the ability or otherwise of DNA to pinpoint ethnic origin in this region simply has not been done. Even if it did work (which I doubt), assigning a person to a population does not establish nationality – people move! The whole proposal is naive and scientifically flawed.
Janet Montgomery, an isotope specialist at Durham University, explained that, “unless the border between Somalia and Kenya represented some major geological or hydrological division, I cannot see how isotopes will discriminate between people living there let alone living at/on the border.” Montgomery insisted: “Isotopes do not respect national borders or convey some inherent national attribute. They are not passports.”