Dental and knee joint X-rays will gauge refugee age
Sweden will use dental X-rays as well as MRI scans of the knee joint to determine the the age of individuals who apply for asylum as unaccompanied minors, the National Board of Forensic Medicine announced on Friday.
Both methods have been criticized by members of Sweden's medical community and officials at the board admitted that no tests can give an exact age of an individual. But, the board said, the two tests combined can narrow down the person's approximate age.
"Each X-ray will be evaluated by two experts, two dentists and two radiologists," said Elias Palm, a doctor of forensic pathology at the board. The tests will only be performed if the patients consents to them, he added.
Determining someone's age is important in asylum cases since those under a certain ages are entitled to different benefits and legal protections. The age test will also be used in criminal cases to determine the age of suspects since minors are given lighter punishments.
The agency is responsible for implementing the medical age assessments as soon as possible and believes it can begin as early as next year. Ann Lemne, project leader for the age tests at the National Board of Forensic Medicine, added that the board would need to first buy equipment and hire staff before the testing began.
Earlier in the summer, the government tapped the National Board of Forensic Medicine to handle the medical age tests. Sweden's Justice Minister, Morgan Johansson, said these assessments are vital for the asylum process and for safety in residences for unaccompanied minors.