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Government defeated on dental age checks for asylum seekers

by adminjay

The government will face restrictions and safeguards on the age assessment of asylum seekers following amendments to the Nationality and Borders Bill.

Dental X-ray checks on age-disputed asylum seekers are now subject to tougher measures following a heavy defeat in the House of Lords.

Peers voted with a majority of almost 70 (232 votes to 167) to pass an amendment that introduces better safeguards around the use of scientific methods to assess the age of undocumented migrants.

This followed lobbying by the British Dental Association (BDA). The group put together a series of amendments on this issue for the Bill’s committee stage.

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Important victory

These were then tabled by Baroness Lister of Burtersett. They gained the support of Labour, Liberal Democrats and the Green Party, as well as a number of crossbench peers.

The new clause 64A means any scientific method used to determine age has to be ethical and also accurate beyond reasonable doubt by the relevant dental, medical and scientific bodies.

The Refugee Council welcomed the move, calling it an important victory for campaigners.

‘Age assessment techniques must be proportionate and fair,’ said Lord Carlile.

He added that if any intrusive measures are to be taken —including dental X-rays — these need to be based on proven evidence of scientific reliability.

‘Unlawful’ checks

This follows the High Court ruling that deemed the age assessment of two migrants ‘unlawful’ in January.

The pair were deemed adults after a series of assessments, despite them both saying they were teenagers.

One of the migrants was from Kuwait who arrived in the UK on a lorry in December 2020. He said he was born in June 2004. However he was judged to be 20 years old after a 42-minute assessment.

Another migrant from Iran was rescued at sea in January 2021. He said he was born in May 2003 but was judged to be 21 years old after an hour-long check.

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