Priti Patel backs medical tests to prove ‘young’ migrants’ REAL age after furore over grown men posing as schoolchildren
- Border Force officers set to use X-ray tech to confirm the age of asylum-seekers
- X-rays of teeth and wrist bones can provide accurate picture of a person’s age
- It follows a string of cases in which migrants falsely claimed to be under 18
- One spent six weeks as a Year 11 pupil at a school in Ipswich in 2018
Border Force officers are set to use X-ray technology to confirm the age of asylum-seekers arriving in boats across the Channel.
A Government document seen by The Mail on Sunday reveals how the Home Office is planning to use medical scans to verify the ages of migrants who claim to be children.
It follows a string of high-profile cases in which would-be asylum-seekers falsely claimed to be under 18. One spent six weeks as a Year 11 pupil at a school in Ipswich in 2018 before the local authority discovered he was years older.
The UK is one of only a few countries not to use scientific methods to check the ages of asylum-seekers, according to the document. At present, social workers simply study the behaviour and language of those claiming to be children to assess whether they are telling the truth.
But X-rays of teeth and wrist bones can provide a more accurate picture of a young person’s age.
Migrants arrive at Dover Docks in a Border Force vessel last week
The document reveals that the Home Office is looking for a private-sector firm to carry out assessments at several sites, adding: ‘The initial estimate is for a requirement of approximately 1,000 assessments a year. However, this will fluctuate, potentially significantly.
‘It is understood that the use of X-rays are the most common form of imaging techniques for these purposes, but other methods would not be precluded if they can be demonstrated to be viable and effective and the exact type of X-ray is still to be determined.’
Home Office research has found up to 54 per cent of migrants claiming to be children were over 18.
Ahmed Hassan, an Iraqi asylum-seeker who planted a bomb on the London Underground in 2017 that partially exploded, injuring 23 people, pretended to be 16.
A judge who jailed the Iraqi for 34 years in 2018 said he was satisfied he was over 18.
Alp Mehmet, chairman of the Migration Watch UK think-tank, said: ‘Adult migrants claiming to be children has long been an issue at the border, with an over-readiness to accept the word of claimants.
‘We are among very few European countries that don’t use scientific evidence in verifying age. It has been a major hole in our defences that traffickers have been only too ready to exploit.
‘If this is now going to change, it is a welcome development.’
However, the scans are likely to anger human rights groups. In 2018, German doctors branded proposals to subject migrants to X-ray examinations ‘unethical’ and unreliable.
More than 14,000 migrants have crossed the Channel since January, compared with 8,420 for the whole of last year. A total of 126 migrants, including several women and children, were rescued by the French in the Strait of Dover on Friday after attempting to reach the UK.
Home Secretary Priti Patel has promised to pay France £54.2 million to tackle the problem, although a £28.2 million payment in November failed to stop the crossings.
It emerged yesterday that Ms Patel was also planning to spend £200 million on a fleet of patrol boats to replace Border Force’s five ageing cutters, which detect illegal immigration and smuggling.
Home Secretary Priti Patel has promised to pay France £54.2 million to tackle the problem, although a £28.2 million payment in November failed to stop the crossings
A document seen by The Mail on Sunday suggests the Home Office wants to charter a vessel to accommodate 12 Border Force officers, three crew and 75 ‘passengers’ and have a ‘rescue platform’ at the stern for plucking migrants to safety from dinghies. It would exceed 25 knots and have a crane to launch a small rescue craft. The Home Office was unable to say last night whether this would supplement existing cutters or was the specification for their replacements.
A shipping broker estimated that such a vessel could cost taxpayers £11,700 a day – £3,600 in charter and crew costs and £8,100 for fuel.
Border Force is to get new powers next year to operate in French waters and officers are being trained in so-called ‘pushback’ tactics to turn migrant vessels away.
The Home Office said: ‘We are seeing an unacceptable rise in dangerous and unnecessary small boat crossings. That’s why we continue to explore all options available to bring these numbers down.’