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Asylum seekers' ages: a guessing game

Published onsdag 8 juni 2016 kl 11.18
Staff at the Migration Agency feel forced to guess the age of the unaccompanied minors who come to the country. Photo: Marcus Ericsson/TT
Staff at the Migration Agency feel forced to guess the age of the unaccompanied minors who come to the country. Photo: Marcus Ericsson/TT

An internal report from the Migration Agency has found widespread uncertainty among staff when it comes to determining the age of refugees, who often arrive in Sweden without identification.

The report describes how case workers felt that judging refugees' ages became a subjective assessment. "Some employees would rather give people the benefit of the doubt, while others felt it was important that adults not live with children," it states. (The Migration Agency's rule of thumb is not to place children and adults in living situations together, unless they are family.)

According to the report, the process is akin to a lottery.

Unaccompanied minors who seek asylum in Sweden are entitled to more benefits than their adult counterparts and have a bigger chance of being allowed to stay in Sweden.

Mikael Ribbenvik, the Director of Operations at the Swedish Migration Agency, says that case workers have not had any other choice than to arbitrarily estimate asylum seekers' ages.

"There is no person in our country who can prove someone's age," said Ribbenvik. "Not even with medical examinations can one prove someone's age. It is still an estimate."


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