Home Office ditches plan to use dental X-rays in asylum checks

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The Home Office has ditched plans to use dental X-rays to determine the age of those seeking asylum. 

But reports suggest that Home Secretary Priti Patel could instead use X-rays of migrants’ bones in a bid to prove their age.

The government faced criticism from groups such as the British Dental Association (BDA) after suggesting that dental X-rays may be used to check whether asylum seekers have reached the age of 18.

Backlash focused on the inaccuracy of the method, while questions were raised surrounding the ethics. Key concerns included exposing people to radiation where there is no health benefit involved.

Room for error

The BDA also points out that X-rays taken for a clinically justified reason must not be used for another reason without the informed consent of the patient.

The UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, has previously slammed the method as having ‘wide margins of error’. It added that they can also be ‘traumatic’ and ‘lead to unnecessary legal processes’.

Now Priti Patel is set to reveal a number of amendments to the Nationality and Borders Bill. This will give the government new powers to use ‘scientifically verifiable’ means to confirm age.

According to reports, it is expected that methods may include X-rays of forearm bones. This would allow the Home Office to estimate the maturity of the skeleton.

‘Pseudoscience’

Eddie Crouch is chair of the British Dental Association. He said: ‘It’s welcome news that ministers appear to have ruled out dental checks on migrants that fail basic tests on accuracy and ethics.

‘However, new laws will still give the government power to define what constitutes a “robust” measure of age.

‘Dentists do not want to see pseudoscience make a return via the back door.’


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