Sweden’s Minister for Migration has called on his country’s Migration Agency to improve age checks for young unaccompanied migrants. The move comes in the wake of doubts cast on the age of the alleged migrant attacker currently on trial for the killing 22-year-old asylum centre worker Alexandra Mezher (pictured).
Minister for Migration, Morgan Johansson, made the request in his annual letter to the Swedish Migration Agency in which he asked them to “develop new methods to assess age better”, reports Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter.
Setting out the agency’s priorities and goals for 2016, Mr. Johansson stressed the importance adults being treated as adults and children as children, not least so they will not be housed in the same accommodation. Crucially, child migrants also enjoy more rights and receive more support than their adult counterparts, and can not be repatriated in the same way. Age checks are seen as the only way to secure this.
The numbers of unaccompanied young migrants to Sweden under the age of 18 have spiraled upwards in recent years. Ten years ago there were just 800 arriving, a number which more than doubled to 2,000 in 2009. In 2013 there were 3,852 of them and in 2014 the country received 7,049, but in 2015 that number had gone up fivefold, reaching 35,369.
Before the recent surge in numbers overwhelmed the Migration Agency, medical age checks were compulsory for all applicants whose ages were strongly doubted. From autumn last year delays in the system meant such regular assessments stopped, except where they were specifically requested by the individual migrants themselves.
Sweden’s National Board of Health is working with the Migration Agency on developing new medical assessments, but both paediatricians and dentists consider them unsafe. Although the centre-right Moderate Party has called for a hiring campaign for doctors to carry out age checks, Mr. Johansson has stressed that he is not demanding medical assessments specifically, adding: “There are other ways, though interviews for example.”
Fredrik Beijer, who is Director of Legal Affairs at the Migration Agency, says medical assessments and interviews with doctors represent just one piece of the puzzle. However, when asked how many applicants are actually older than they claim he replied: “That’s the same as asking a court ‘how many of the people you find innocent are actually guilty?’”
In 2013 the Migration Agency decided to raise the age of 342 people. 363 applicants saw their ages raised in 2014, and in 161 of those cases the decision was taken following a medical assessment, 77 per cent of which resulted in ages being raised. Figures for 2015 are not yet available.
This weekend Breitbart London revealed that the Daily Mail – one of the world’s largest news outlets, was blocking access to one of its articles questioning the age of Miss. Mezher’s attacker.