Migrants who claim to be children must be rigorously assessed

Morning View
Morning View

Of all the many aspects of the migrant crisis that have upset the public, there has been near unanimous concern at the fate of the seemingly abandoned refugee children.

Even politicians who have taken a firm line on immigration have generally agreed that assistance should be given to such children.

Now there are Home Office figures that show that more than two-thirds of refugees who have had their ages assessed were found to be adults despite claiming to be children.

If adults from other parts of the world that are destitute or war torn are desperate to get into Europe, and specifically to the richer countries such as the UK, it is no surprise that some of them will under-play their age – they might be a youthful looking 22-year-old who sees the prospect of assisted package to Britain.

After all, plenty of people in Britain are asked for ID to prove that they are old enough to get into venues that are only open to adults long after they have reached the age of majority.

The Tory MP David Davies is saying that interviews of young people by French and UK officials, in the absence of documentary proof of age, is not enough to estimate their age.

He has been condemned by dentists after calling for tests on teeth. His suggested solution might be, as the British Dental Association (BDA), says “inappropriate and unethical”.

But Mr Davies is right to fear exploitation. It has been clear over the last 18 months that a disproportionate number of arrivals in Europe have been young men. Yet it is also clear that there have been genuinely desperate migrants of all ages.

Governments of all shades are having to be compassionate but also tough. This is one reason why David Cameron wanted to take refugees from camps near Syria, thus making it less likely that others attempt the journey into Europe.

How to assess if refugees are children is tricky but will nonetheless have to be done rigorously if a deluge of false claims is to be deterred.