Priti Patel’s plan to use x-rays and CT scans to prove asylum seekers are the age they claim to be has been branded “flawed and dangerous”.
The home secretary announced the formation of a new scientific advisory committee which will consider methods used in other countries such as Finland and Norway which examine a person’s teeth and bones when they are seeking safety.
This is to cut down on the practice of “single grown adult men, masquerading as children” to access schools and extra services and support “through deception and deceit”, Patel said. Many asylum seekers arriving in the UK do not have passports or documentation to prove their age.
But when the idea was reported last year, experts including the British Dental Association blasted the plans as “inappropriate and unethical” and warned dentists could be accused of “criminal battery” to take x-rays of a person without a specific medical purpose.
Patel’s committee will consider a “range of scientific methods” for estimating a person’s age according to their accuracy and reliability, as well as ethical and medical issues.
If an asylum seeker’s age is called into question it is not currently permitted for them to be physically examined, instead being interviewed by social workers. But in its announcement, the government referred to methods in France which include x-raying the fusion of the collar bone, teeth and wrists to ascertain age.