SHAFAQNA – Assessments to determine the age of child refugees are being carried out where necessary, but the use of dental checks is not possible or right, the immigration minister has said.
Robert Goodwill clarified that dental checks and x-rays would not be used after Conservative MPs questioned the age of some child refugees pictured arriving in the UK from the camp at Calais.
The Home Office minister appeared in the House of Commons to rule out medical or dental evidence as a way of determining age, after Philip Davies, a backbench Tory, requested an urgent question.
Davies claimed the ministers needed to get a grip on the issue to stop “irreparable damage to public confidence in the asylum system”.
“We agreed to take in child refugees and surely it’s not too much to ask of the government to ensure that they are children and clearly this is not the case,” he said. “People only have to see the pictures of the so-called child refugees to see that many of them are not children.
“A large number of my constituents have contacted me to say how angry they are that we are being taken for fools, taken for a ride and our generosity is being abused.”
However, Goodwill told MPs that there are already checks and assessments to make sure child refugees coming to the UK from the Calais camp are under 18, with about 10% of all cases refused.
“Where credible and clear documentary evidence of age is not available, and the pace at which these children have fled situations of war and persecution mean that many do not have any definitive documentary evidence, then we will use criteria including physical appearance and demeanour to assess age as part of the interview process.”
He said if there were concerns once the child was in the UK then there can be a 28-day checking process carried out by social services. Children under the age of 13, and the most vulnerable, are being prioritised as they come to the UK to be with their families, Goodwill said.
The issue of the age of refugees has blown up into a huge controversy, with a number of rightwing newspapers supporting the position of the Tory MPs. However, opposition MPs have questioned the ethics of intrusive age verification, and Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker has accused those calling for checks “hideously racist and heartless”.
Lineker has faced calls in the Sun newspaper to be sacked from his BBC job for making political comments.