‘If in Doubt, Treat Them as a Minor’: European Body Orders End of Migrant Age Tests

The Council of Europe has spoken out against performing medical tests on migrants to determine their age, claiming youths could be “frightened and unsettled” by the process.

In a report published Wednesday on age tests, the children’s rights committee of the council said unless there is evidence that the person is an adult, asylum seekers claiming to be under 18 should “be given the benefit of the doubt and presumed to be a child”.

Alleging that age assessments “may be frightening and unsettling for children”, the report recommends the process should take place “only if a best interests assessment concludes [it] is required in order to promote the best interests of the child”.

And only as a “last resort” should EU nations use “invasive” medical age assessment methods  — such as dental examinations and X-rays  — according to the report, which concludes that “the ultimate goal of any procedure should be to ensure the protection of the person’s rights”.

Additionally “gender, culture, personal stories and family background of the children must be taken into account”, recommends the report, which will inform the Council of Europe’s work in developing pan-European guidelines on age assessment “which respect children’s rights in the context of migration”.

Based on a survey of 37 EU member states in spring 2017, it examined at how countries assess the ages of migrants lacking identification papers who say they are under 18.

“Age assessment procedures must not be forced,” the report insists, lamenting that only in 27 of the countries surveyed is it required that “the child and his/her guardian” give consent.

“Upon refusal, the child should not have to fear direct or indirect negative consequences resulting from the refusal,” states the document, instructing that “the presumption of minor age should be upheld” in such cases.

Earlier this month, the Afghan asylum seeker on trial for the rape and murder of a medical student in Germany admitted he lied about his age, explaining that he pretended to be a child because “the situation is better” for migrants claiming to be under 18.

In Sweden, medical tests to assess migrants’ ages  — which were brought in following two murders by “unaccompanied minors” who turned out to be adults  — revealed that the vast majority of migrants in disputed cases are over 18.

Testing 1,481 self-declared children in an assessment that involved an MRI of the knee joint and an x-ray of wisdom teeth, the country’s National Board of Forensic Medicine reported that 86 per cent were adults, and had lied about their age.


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