Controversial age tests for refugees soon underway
Sweden is set to begin testing the age of individuals who apply for asylum as unaccompanied minors as soon as this autumn.
The government announced that the National Board of Forensic Medicine will now be responsible for implementing the medical age assessments as soon as possible.
Sweden's Justice Minister, Morgan Johansson told Swedish Radio that these assessments are vital for the asylum process and for safety in residences for unaccompanied minors.
"It's already been too long. It's important to get age assessments both in the asylum process, but also in terms of the safety of the children who live in our homes," said Johansson speaking with Swedish Radio news.
Last November, the government announced proposals to reduce the number of asylum seekers to Sweden, one of which was medical age tests. And in April The National Board of Health and Welfare published findings that recommended MRIs as the safest and most accurate of available age tests for confirming that children were in fact children. Although the board recommended that pilot studies be conducted.
But the MRI test of knees, which was recommended by the board, was criticized by a small group of doctors who said it could take nearly a year for Sweden to build the capacity for performing such tests on unaccompanied minors.
A report from the National Board of Forensic Medicine on a system for age assessments is due June 15, and a program for determining age is expected to be in place by November.
Age tests are already used in criminal matters involving individuals who claim to be minors. Monica Rodrigo, the general director at the board of forensic medicine, told Swedish Radio that they will consider how other countries have implemented age assessments.
"We will never make a determination claiming greater certainty than the scientific method allows. The focus is always a protection of rights," said Rodrigo.
Anders Hjern, a pediatrician and professor at the Karolinska Institute, was critical of today's announcement. He told Radio Sweden that Sweden should not rush to implement the age tests until the scientific studies have been completed.