A plan which was dropped three years ago is to be revived though being opposed by medical profession and lawyers and children’s commissioners.
The UKBA is to start pilot for dental x rays of child asylum seekers. The agency has started a three month trial of volunteer applicants to establish the ages of asylum seeker who are under 18 and treated differently. The previous labour government had dropped similar plans.
It is estimated that throughout UK such tests would involve hundreds of children and young adults every year.
The children’s commissioners jointly said that it was shocking that such clear breach of the rights of the vulnerable children could be taken which was in fact illegal.
The lawyers also warned that the proposed plans were not only unethical but also an assault on the children.
Chief medical officer Liam Donaldson, for the government in 2008 warned the checks had potential harming effect on the children from ionising radiation especially when there was no provision for clinical benefit.
The dropped plan was revealed in a letter to interested parties from Zilla Bowell, the UK Border Agency’s head of asylum.
She insisted those who chose not to participate would not jeopardise their claims for asylum or humanitarian protection but said that many were aware that difficulties arise when age of the applicant is not established. This plan is to ensure to utilise any appropriate tool which could increase the levels of certainty without having any negative impact she added.
Asylum seekers are usually cared for by local authority social services departments but the agency has complained that young adults claim to be under 18 to avoid removal.
The pilot will involve volunteers who are assessed as adults by Croydon council, in south London, but maintain they are under 18. They will be given the opportunity to have a dental x-ray at Guy’s hospital, London.
Bowell’s letter states that if x-rays indicate that the individual is likely to be under 18, Croydon council will be invited to review their assessment of the asylum-seekers’ age.
The Refugee Council also criticised the trial. Deborah Harris, its chief operating officer, said the fact that numerous professional bodies have previously stated the plan was not a sound method is very concerning for vulnerable children caught in the process.