Doubts over age of asylum seekers

swedish-flag-credit-matti-matillaMigration authorities in Sweden have revealed that around 12 percent of juvenile asylum seekers that have arrived in the country so far this year might not be under the age of 18.

Between January and April, 930 unaccompanied minors arrived in Sweden seeking asylum; however, the Swedish Migration Board claims that as many as 12 per cent of them are above the age of 18.

The board’s estimate came after it began using a recently-introduced age verification method – widely criticised by children’s rights groups – which the country’s National Board of Health and Welfare considers reliable and suitable.

Using the new system, when migration officials are not convinced about the age of an asylum seeker, a medical assessment can be carried out, in which a doctor x-rays the skeleton, wrist and teeth of the applicant in a bid to try and determine his or her real age.

However, Save the Children in Sweden has criticised the new system, claiming that the authorities to have more faith in the children. The group’s Mikaela Hagan said that they are of the opinion that if doubts exist, the children’s explanations should be trusted.

The Swedish Migration Board’s head of asylum division Oskar Ekblad said that even using the new methods, they cannot rule out that someone might be a child. He explained, however, that the requirement states it should be probable the asylum seeker is a child.

Asylum seekers who are 18 or under have several advantages over those who are adults including a greater likelihood of remaining in Sweden and a greater chance of being placed in certain municipalities in the country.