FPS Justice refuses to submit unaccompanied minors to age tests

FPS Justice refuses to submit unaccompanied minors to age tests
Asylum seekers wait outside the headquarters of the Fedasil Federal Agency For The Reception Of Asylum Seekers in Brussels. Credit: BELGA PHOTO/ERIC LALMAND

The Guardianship Service of FPS Justice refuses to subject unaccompanied foreign minors to bone tests to determine if they are under the age of 18, reports De Standaard. The authorities deem that such tests would not be medically prudent, due to the often poor health of the minors.

Since 26 October, the Guardianship Service has refused to carry out such tests. As the reception network for asylum seekers is so overloaded in Belgium, Fedasil gives priority to the most vulnerable groups, including purported minors.

If Fedasil is in doubt about a migrant’s age, they ask the Guardianship Service to carry out medical tests, typically including x-rays of the teeth, collarbone, and wrist. The service now refuses to carry out these tests on medical grounds.

“After living on the streets, young people are too weak for such scans,” explained a spokesperson. The service wants Fedasil to provide the refugees with medical care before any such test is administered. Fedasil has been accused of failing to properly provide for asylum seekers, who are often left on the streets and left to fall ill.

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For its part, Fedasil is displeased with the service’s refusal to administer the tests. With the saturation of the reception system, specialised accommodation cannot be given to minors without prior determination of their age. The federal agency reminds the Guardianship Service that conducting age-determining tests is part of its core mission.

In response, the office of the Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration, Nicole de Moor, plans to set up locations where young people can receive a medical examination before undergoing the triple x-ray.

This medical examination consists of a triple radiograph of the teeth, collarbone and wrist. Even though the law provides for the possibility of psychoactive tests, they are rarely used in practice.

These tests have come under fire from experts at the University of Ghent, who published a report to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) which concludes that "results from skeletal and dental age assessment cannot in themselves be considered as such sufficiently reliable and conclusive evidence."

Furthermore, age test or not, the chronic lack of reception accommodation in Belgium continues. The reception system is so saturated that many underage minors are being forced to sleep rough because of the Belgian authorities' failure to provide legally-required shelter.

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