Asylum seekers suspected of lying about their age could face controversial X-ray checks under moves announced by Priti Patel today.
A scientific committee will be established by the Home Secretary to examine ways to analyse migrants who claim they are under 18 years old.
Miss Patel said the deception carried out by some asylum seekers is an ‘appalling abuse of our system, which we will end’.
Nearly 1,700 age assessment were done in September and found that two-thirds (or almost 3,000) of those who said they were underage actually had been assessed as adults. This is in response to a string of disturbing cases where adult asylum seekers ended up being educated alongside teens at schools.
Experts on the scientific advisory committee will look at the methods other countries use to determine people’s true ages, including X-ray examinations and other types of radiology, plus CT and MRI scans.
Parsons Green terrorist Ahmed Hassan is one of the most alarming examples of an asylum seeker pretending that he was a child (pictured). In 2017, he posed for the camera as a 16 year-old boy before setting off an explosive on a Tube train that ran through west London. 23 people were injured.
Their findings will ultimately feed into a system for assessing asylum seekers’ ages, as set out in legislation going through Parliament.
Miss Patel said: ‘The practice of single grown adult men masquerading as children claiming asylum is an appalling abuse of our system, which we will end.
‘By posing as children, these adult men go on to access children’s services and schools through deception and deceit – putting children and young adults in school and care at risk… Local councils have received more support and resources to make sure they use robust and reliable tests to verify the age of immigrants to prevent them from being mistakenly classified as children.
Following a minor boat accident in Channel, on 16 December 16, RNLI brought a group of migrants into Dungeness (Kent)
‘I am changing UK laws to introduce new scientific methods for assessing the age of asylum seekers to stop these abuses and to give the British public confidence that we will end the overt exploitation of our laws and UK taxpayers.’
She added: ‘The Nationality and Borders Bill will end many of the blatant abuses that have led to our immigration and asylum system being abused by those with no right to be in our country.’ Migrants who claim to be under 18 receive better housing and support, a more sympathetic hearing in their asylum claim and are less likely to be detained.
They get the benefit of doubt for appearing to be below 25.
It is against the law to conduct physical exams. Social workers make assessments of disputed ages and report them to the authorities.
The Home Office spokesperson said that European countries have X-rays. CT scans are sometimes used, but MRI imaging is also used in age-assessment. According to him, radiography can be used by Norway and Finland to assess the development and fusion of bone in the wrist.
France utilizes X-rays for assessing the fusion and health of the collarbone, along with dental and wrist radiographs. In Greece, X-rays are also used to check the social workers.
Professor Sue Black, a leading forensic anthropologist and Lancaster University’s pro-vice-chancellor for engagement, will be chairman of the advisory committee.
Dame Sue said: ‘I am pleased to have been asked to chair this committee and look forward to the opportunity to provide advice to the Home Office chief scientific adviser on the important issue of scientific assessment of age.’
The committee will look at the accuracy and reliability of techniques to determine age, as well as ‘ethical and medical issues’, the Home Office spokesman said.
Last year the British Dental Association said it would be ‘inappropriate and unethical’ to take X-rays of a patient that had no medical purpose. It suggested dentists could even be accused of ‘criminal battery’ if they did so.
The Home Office said resolving age disputes is ‘currently very time-consuming, challenging and expensive for local authorities and the Government’.
A disagreement can cause legal problems that can be costly for councils and can take up to three years to settle. Each lone child migrant looked after by a local authority costs the taxpayer £46,000 a year.
According to the Bill, Home Secretary can specify the types of age assessments that may be performed, such as medical imaging technology or DNA testing swabs.
According to legislation, asylum seekers are required to agree to undergo the testing. But failure to co-operate may lead to ‘damage to the person’s credibility’, it adds.
Out of 1,696 cases of disputed age which were concluded in the year to September, 1,118 were found to be 18 or over – the highest number since figures began in 2006.