May 30, 2017

Swedish age testing shows asylum-seekers above 18yrs

Sweden’s National Board of Forensic Medicine says most asylum-seekers it tested, were older than 18 years, a media report said on Tuesday.

In 2016, the board was tasked with conducting assessments to determine the medical age of asylum seekers.

The board reported its first results in a statement on its website.

Of the 581 people who were tested, a majority were deemed to be over 18 years and five people were considered to be possibly older than 18.

In 134 cases, the evaluations suggested they were younger than 18.

Examiners used an X-ray of wisdom teeth and a magnetic resonance image of the knee joint to assess the age of asylum-seekers.

“If you have mature knee joints and mature wisdom teeth, we can, with a high degree of confidence, say the person is 18 years or older,’’ Elias Palm, a department manager at the forensic medicine board, told newsmen.

Meanwhile the evaluation results were examined by several doctors independently.

Their statements, along with other information provided by the asylum-seeker, serve as the basis for the Swedish Migration Agency’s asylum decisions.

So far, 4,200 people have voluntarily agreed to undergo the medical age assessment.

“We anticipate being able to produce our reports faster now that our initial quality control and systems are in place,’’ Ann Lemne, project manager for the age assessments, said in the board’s statement.

However, the methods have been criticised as unreliable.

“Before, asylum-seekers risked being thought of as older than they actually were, but that risk is actually very small,’’ the board said.

Palm said: “The risk that we are going to incorrectly deem a child to be an adult is generally very small, but it is greatest if you are just under 18, in which case it is about 10 per cent.’’

Speaking from an informal meeting of Nordic prime ministers in Bergen, Norway, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said it was good that the technology to conduct age assessments existed.

“We do not want anyone to be regarded as a child if they are an adult and vice versa,’’ he told newsmen.