UK rejects call for dental checks on child refugees

Conservative Party MP David Davies demanded dental checks after claims that child refugees were older than they claimed.

Britain migrants
The Home Office said it did not use dental checks to confirm age [Matt Dunham/AP]

London, UK – The British government has rejected calls to conduct age-verification dental checks on child refugees entering the country.

Conservative Party MP David Davies suggested such tests should be conducted after tabloid newspapers reported that children arriving from the “Jungle” refugee camp in France were older than they purported to be.

Speaking to the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show on Wednesday, Davies said dental checks should be used “where there are doubts” about age. 

Separately, in an angry exchange with Good Morning Britain presenter Piers Morgan, Davies said he was committed to helping child refugees – but wanted to make sure the right people were being assisted. 

“I think it’s right that we do help children, but I don’t think it’s right that we allow anyone who wants to come in, simply because they’ve said they’re under the age of 18,” Davies said.

READ MORE: Calais ‘Jungle’ – UK vows to accept child refugees

In the past week dozens of children from the camp in Calais have arrived ahead of its demolition by French authorities.

Their arrival has been met with incredulity from sections of the British press with several front pages featuring pictures of refugees who journalists claimed were not children. 

Wednesday’s front page of popular tabloid The Sun led with a picture of one such refugee with the headline Migrant ‘children’ look 40.  

Linking to one such news story on his Twitter account, Davies appeared to share the skepticism. 

“These don’t look like ‘children’ to me. I hope British hospitality is not being abused,” the MP said, before claiming not to have seen any children on his own visit to Calais. 

The MP’s suggestion for dental checks has been rejected by professional bodies, the government, and refugee advocacy groups.

‘Credible and clear’

A Home Office spokesperson said British officials already conducted checks on child refugees to verify age and the process took into account physical characteristics.

“Where credible and clear documentary evidence of age is not available, criteria including physical appearance and demeanour are used as part of the interview process to assess age,” the spokesperson said. 

The Home Office said it did not use dental checks to confirm age, citing the British Dental Association’s (BDA) description of such procedures as “inaccurate, inappropriate and unethical”. 

In a statement sent to Al Jazeera on Wednesday, the BDA said it condemned the calls by Davies and “vigorously opposed” the use of dental X-rays to determine age.

“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,” the statement said.

READ MORE: ‘The Calais Sessions’ and the music of Kasper

Stephen Hale, chief executive of the NGO Refugee Action, warned against questioning the refugees’ eligibility to reside in the UK. 

“These children have experienced unimaginable horrors. It’s fantastic that Britain is finally stepping up to help. We must welcome them, not question their right to be here,” Hale said. 

“The vulnerable children and young people arriving from Calais have been assessed by the Home Office and are, at last, being reunited with their loved ones. 

“It’s essential that these children receive the support they now urgently need to successfully rebuild their lives.”

Anti-refugee sentiment 

Davies’ suggestion of a dental test comes amid a number of high-profile incidents where prominent musicians and sports personalities were condemned on social media for their pro-refugee stances. 

Former England footballer and BBC Sports presenter Gary Lineker was attacked online for criticising some of the comments aimed at the refugees. 

“The treatment by some towards these young refugees is hideously racist and utterly heartless. What’s happening to our country?” Lineker wrote on his Twitter account. 

While many users were supportive, Lineker’s comments also attracted a torrent of abuse from British Twitter accounts, accusing the refugees of being “rapist thugs” and not respecting the Western way of life. 

“Wonder what makes some people feel, by sheer good fortune of place of birth, superior to others. I need a lie down,” Lineker responded. 

About 387 of roughly 1,000 child refugees from Calais are believed to have residency rights in the UK. 

Last week the Home Secretary Amber Rudd promised to expedite their transfer to the country ahead of the eviction of the “jungle” camp.

First refugee minors arrive in UK from Calais camp

Source: Al Jazeera