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Health Board: MRI best available test of age

Updated onsdag 20 april 2016 kl 16.10
Published onsdag 20 april 2016 kl 13.09
Health Board director discusses review of age tests
(3:08 min)
Staffan Löwstedt / SvD / TT
Photo: Staffan Löwstedt / SvD / TT

An agency review of how Sweden might test the ages of asylum seekers found MRI scans of knees provided the best results of known radiological tests. Psycho-social evaluations had no scientific support.

Wednesday the National Board of Health and Welfare presented its review of the medical methods for age assessment, which can form a basis of changing the way unaccompanied minors are handled by the Migration Agency.

Last year a record number of around 35,000 minors came to Sweden seeking asylum. Those who claim they are under 18 receive different treatment than adults including separate housing, an appointed legal guardian, and separate asylum consideration, reports Swedish Radio News. Legal minors are also more likely to be granted asylum.

But many unaccompanied minors have no documentation to prove their age. And medical assessments, for example those that use X-ray pictures of tooth development to give an approximate age, have been called uncertain by experts. Moreover, the extra expenses associated with accomodating unaccompanied minors has given the government an incentive to test asylum seekers' ages.

Speaking with Radio Sweden, Lars-Torsten Larsson, a director at the Health Board, said that MRI scans of knees were better than x-ray tests because they emit less radiation and offered the less range of interpretation from experts. But the biggest factor, he said, was that MRIs were least likely to provide false positives - indicating that an actual minor was an adult.

"We shall not determine that a child is considered to be an adult. That's the most important part of our investigation, and that's what we really focused on," said Larsson. He said the Health Board did not make a recommendation on how age assessments might be used in the asylum process.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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