RCPCH responds to plans for migrant children to undergo X-rays to try and verify age

RCPCH has been made aware of potential plans for vulnerable child refugees to undergo X-rays to verify their age.
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As the updated RCPCH position statement on age assessments outlines, many asylum-seekers will have no documentary evidence of their birth date and therefore other methods of age assessment are currently being undertaken within the UK to establish whether they are under the age of 18 years. RCPCH stands resolutely against the use of these methods due to the inaccuracy of age assessments and the ethics of undertaking them. 

RCPCH President, Dr Camilla Kingdon said:

We’re deeply concerned to hear about potential plans for vulnerable child asylum seekers to undergo X-rays to verify their age.

Paediatricians have said time and time again that age assessment by examination and X-rays is imprecise and unethical. Scientific evidence shows that pubertal assessment and bone age assessment are unreliable indicators of age and therefore cannot be used. It is also wrong to expose anyone, let alone vulnerable children, to radiation from x-rays unnecessarily for non-clinical purposes. I think it is highly questionable whether consent can even be freely given in these types of situations. 

It is difficult to determine any young person’s age accurately, particularly a migrant child. A child’s physical, emotional and developmental presentation is influenced by a myriad of factors including, but in no way limited to, their ethnicity, socio-economic environment and nutritional status. We also need to consider the impact of adverse experiences, conflict, trauma, violence and forced migration on a child. 

It is very worrying that these already discredited plans keep resurfacing and so we’re calling on the Home Secretary to ditch them immediately and instead make sure these vulnerable children and young people get all the support they need.