Tory MP David Davies is calling for child migrants to face dental checks. Recent photos in British newspapers sparked intrigue over the age of asylum seekers entering the United Kingdom. Child migrants had arrived in the country from Calais’ migrant camp, and photos of the youngsters made headlines.
Many believed the children were not what they claimed and were actually much older. Davies was quoted as saying, “they clearly look, in some cases, a lot older than 18.” Davies was so bothered by the possible ages of the migrants that he called for them to have dental and hand x-rays to prove they are children and not adults.
Despite Davies’ call for British dentists to investigate the migrant children’s ages, the British Dental Association said it would be ethically wrong to do so. The organization also stated it would be inaccurate to determine the children’s ages based on both dental and hand x-rays. A British Dental Association spokesman explained the difficulties of using dental x-rays on the children. The spokesman also explained the ethically problems dentists would face.
“It´s not only an inaccurate method for assessing age, but it is both inappropriate and unethical to take radiographs of people when there is no health benefit for them,” the spokesman said. “X-rays taken for a clinically-justified reason must not be used for another purpose without the patient´s informed consent, without coercion and in full knowledge of how the radiograph will be used and by whom.”
In response the British Dental Association’s spokesman, Davies fired back. The MP claimed the United States and other European countries use dental and hand x-rays to prove the age of asylum seekers.
“I don´t accept it´s intrusive to take an x-ray of someone,” Davis declared. “Somebody who´s willing to throw themselves onto an electrified rail line or jump into a moving lorry isn´t going to be terribly worried about having an X-ray. If we don´t raise this question we allow ourselves to be carried along on a tide of emotion. You know, Lily Allen style, with tears in our eyes – we´re not actually going to be able to help the people who need our help.”
Despite Davies’ onslaught on the child migrants coming from Calais, others have called for Britain to do more to help. One in opposition of Davies, Ruth Allen, the chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers, believes Davies is missing the point. She question Davies’ ability to deduce the asylum seekers’ ages from photographs. “They appear to be being quite vilified in the papers and their age has come into question to make a story,” Allen said.
While the British Dental Association and the Home Office do not use dental x-rays to prove age, there are others – along with Davies – interested in using them. Some social workers working for the local authority and town councils feel it would be useful. They feel it would be a good assessment of age as part of a multi-agency assessment. Members of the Refugee Council Policy spoke out against the idea of using x-rays to determine age.
“The experts and evidence are utterly clear on this matter: dental x-rays are an inaccurate and inappropriate method of judging a young person´s age,” Refugee Council Policy Manager Judith Dennis said. “Social workers should instead rely on the expert guidance already available to help them carry out lawful, sensitive and accurate age assessments.”
The matter of migrants entering the UK isn’t to go away anytime soon, especially after Britain voted to leave the European Union earlier this year.