chapter  7
17 Pages

Biometric verification versus social validation of relations of kinship

Somali refugees in Denmark
WithKaren Fog Olwig, Kristina Grünenberg, Perle Møhl, Anja Simonsen

This chapter examines how biometric technology was introduced during the 1990s to assess the family reunification of refugees, with particular attention to Somalis who, as will be seen, played an important role in precipitating Danish concerns about the need to institute the biometric verification of family relations. The chapter discusses the disparate logics of family and kinship, as either biologically fixed or socially generated, that became apparent with biometric testing, as well as how they reflected the refugees’ differing situations in Denmark, and further shaped their experiences of settling into a new society. For the Danish government, as for many Danes, biometric testing came to signify a means of safeguarding the close relationship between the nuclear family, the right to dwell in Denmark under international universal human rights conventions, and the ability to maintain a proper family life suitable for Denmark’s welfare society. For the Somali refugees, however, the biometric assessment of applications for family reunification generated mixed emotions. It created difficulties for some by narrowing the possibilities for reunification significantly, but it presented opportunities, for others, to renegotiate transnational family obligations that had become increasingly onerous.