Child asylum seekers: dental age check plan dropped, but key questions remain

18 October 2021
1 min read
Published:

The British Dental Association (BDA) has welcomed reports the Home Office has reconsidered plans to introduce the use of dental x-rays to determine age in asylum cases. The BDA has been campaigning against the rollout of dental age checks for migrants, working closely with the Refugee Council, alongside other healthcare bodies and opposition health and home teams.

It is expected government amendments to the Nationality and Borders Bill will still give significant latitude to the Home Office to define in due course what constitutes ‘robust’ and ‘scientific methods’ of age assessment. On that basis the BDA will continue to seek amendments to the Bill to rule out radiographic tests. 

The BDA has vigorously opposed the use of dental X-rays to determine whether asylum seekers have reached the age of 18, stressing they are an inaccurate method for assessing age.  

The BDA also believes that it is inappropriate and unethical to subject people to radiation when there is no health benefit for them. X-rays taken for a clinically justified reason must not be used for another purpose without the patient's informed consent and must be carried out without coercion and in full knowledge of how the radiograph will be used and by whom.

Eddie Crouch, BDA chair, 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.”