The Austrian government has been medically assessing ‘underage’ migrants if they are suspected to be lying about their age. So far, 951 migrants who claimed to be children were found to be adults.
The Federal Office for Foreign Affairs and Asylum (BFA) has had reason to believe that more than 2,200 migrants who had claimed to be under 18 were lying about their ages. Using medical tests, the authorities were able to confirm that almost half of those they suspected were in fact over the age of 18 – some of them being over 30, reports Austria’s Kurier.
Many migrants in Austria and other countries in Europe have stated that they are underage because not only to host countries provide better accommodation and more resources to minors, but ‘child migrants’ are almost impossible to deport.
Some authorities, like a policeman in the Austrian town of Traiskirchen, had immediate suspicions of migrants who claimed to be under 17. Speaking to the Austrian press the officer said: “It is absurd for us to see grown men with beards and graying hair that claim to be 17 years of age.” The officer requested to be anonymous, fearing he could be disciplined for speaking out.
Even if officers have convictions that migrants are older than 17, the bureaucratic process ensures that the migrants are taken at face value and are listed as minors upon entry.
Karl-Heinz Grundböck, spokesman for the Austrian Interior Ministry, said: “If there are reasonable doubts about the age information of a refugee, then an appropriate age assessment is arranged.”
The medical tests cost approximately €1,000 per migrant, with total costs in the range of two million euros which is in addition to the already large budget for migrants in Austria. If the tests are inconclusive, the migrants are labelled as minors.
Police on the border and in asylum reception centres have said that the expense of the medical tests would not be needed if the law was made simpler and based on common sense. They claim affirm that simple visual assessments of multiple police officers should be enough to decide whether someone is truly 17 or under rather than medical tests. Officers even claimed that they had migrants who were clearly over 35 years old claiming to be underage.
Of the 88,151 migrants who entered Austria last year, an estimated 9,331 claimed to be minors. Of those, 951 who were found to be lying – the vast majority, 691, were from Afghanistan. The numbers were followed by 46 Somalians, 44 Nigerians, and 40 Pakistanis.
Sweden has also had problems with migrants lying about their age. A Somalian man, who claimed to be 15 years old, murdered asylum worker Alexandra Mezher, and an Eritrean who claimed to be under 18 molested a 10-year-old girl who was the daughter of the family who he was placed with by Swedish child services.