Nearly 7 in 10 ‘Minor’ Migrants Age-Tested in Belgium in 2021 Were Actually Adults

Illustration shows the conditions of waiting outside for asylum seekers in front of the &#

Belgian authorities carried out 2,515 age tests on self-professed underage migrants last year and of the 2,435 results, 69 per cent were found to be adults and just 31 per cent were declared to be minors.

The fact underage migrants tend to receive preferential treatment in European countries if they are unaccompanied minors has created the phenomenon of arrivals lying about their age, and Belgium is not the only country to have instituted tests.

In 2021, Belgium took saw a total of 3,351 migrants who claimed to be underage, but authorities ordered tests over the vast majority of them to determine if the migrants were being truthful and found an overwhelming share of those who were tested were actually adults. Of some 2,515 tests ordered, 2,435 resulted in decisions by the state, and 69 per cent — around 1,680 — were found to actually be adults lying about their ages, broadcaster RTBF reports.

Last Friday, Belgium held its first Inter-Ministerial Conference on Migration and Integration and discussed a total of eight objectives in approaching the issue of the reception of minor migrants, including being able to have sufficient accommodation. Another of the goals was to optimize the determination of migrants’ actual ages, with barely one in three supposed underage migrants judged as actually telling the truth regarding their status as minors.

Other objectives included following up on minor migrants who may have disappeared, providing sufficient support to administrative guardians, outreach to minors living on the street and supporting the education and integration of minor migrants.

The figures follow others discussed in December last year, when Sammy Mahdi — Belgium’s Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration — stated at of the 1,991 migrants who had been tested at the time, 70 per cent turned out to be adults, largely in line with the new numbers.

Mahdi also addressed the Federal Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (Fedasil), calling on it to do more to provide accommodation to minors and determine their true ages.

“I have specifically asked Fedasil to accommodate all minors. This situation is unacceptable and I will personally ensure that their reception is respected. Better to take an adult’s bed, than not to have a bed at all,” Secretary of State Mahdi said.

“In the meantime, the Guardianship Service must urgently do what is expected of it: carry out age tests. In case of doubt, 70 per cent of them turn out to be adults. But if we have to wait months for an answer, these adult asylum seekers will take the place of the children,” he added.

Fedasil had problems accommodating migrants last year due to a number of factors, including large-scale flooding in parts of the country, which both saw those affected needing 1,000 accommodation spaces and accommodation places in flooded areas damaged.

Violence in Belgian asylum accommodation has also increased in recent years, with the number of incidents doubling since 2017. Half of the reports involved physical or verbal violence against asylum accommodation workers or other asylum seekers.


Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)


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