Only some undergo an age test – the majority of asylum seekers claiming to be minors are underage
Kaleva reported that the majority of asylum seekers who have claimed to be minors would be adults. This assumption is based on statistics presented by a forensic dentist, according to which 70 per cent of the asylum seekers who underwent a forensic odontological examination last year had turned out to be adults. It was also reported that the number of age assessment examinations has increased manifold over the past few years.
Not nearly all asylum seekers claiming to be minors undergo an age assessment examination. Therefore, it cannot be concluded from the high share of applicants who turned out to be adults after being tested that the majority of all minor applicants would be 18 or older.
The test results rather indicate that the authorities have been able to test asylum seekers’ age only when it has been well-founded and that asylum seekers have not been sent to expensive and time-consuming examinations unnecessarily.
Number of unaccompanied minors became 15 times higher – even tests are conducted more often
The increased number of age assessments is a natural result of the fact that the number of unaccompanied minor asylum seekers has increased. In 2015, the number of unaccompanied minors who sought asylum in Finland was 3,024. In 2014, the corresponding figure was 196, which means that their number increased more than fifteenfold in a year. By the end of March, 177 unaccompanied minor asylum seekers had arrived in Finland this year.
Age assessments are still relatively rare. They are carried out only if the authorities suspect the age of an asylum seeker who claims to be a minor.
- In 2015, 149 asylum seekers claiming to be minors were tested.
- The number of tests doubled from 2014 when 70 applicants were tested.
- The number of age tests is expected to increase further this year, as the majority of all minors who sought asylum last year arrived in the country at the end of the year and are now waiting for the processing of their applications.
In 2015, 62 per cent (92 persons) of the asylum seekers who were tested proved to be adults according to the test. In 2014, 56 per cent (39 persons) of those who were tested proved to be adults.
The test is conducted only if there are grounds to suspect the age stated by the applicant
The age of an asylum seeker is established primarily using documents and registers and by hearing the applicant. If no official documents are available, the age stated by the applicant is used as a starting point.
However, if there are apparent reasons to doubt the credibility of the information provided, it may be necessary to perform a forensic age assessment. For example, the applicant’s appearance and the information provided may raise doubts.
Age tests are conducted at the request of the police, the Border Guard or the Finnish Immigration Service. At present, the examination methods most commonly used include dentinal and carpal bone examinations by X-ray and clinical examination.
The examination can be performed once the person being tested and his or her guardian or other legal representative have given their written consent. If the asylum seeker refuses to undergo an examination without an acceptable reason, he or she will be treated as an adult. A refusal to undergo an examination may not as such constitute grounds for rejecting an application for international protection.
Age is relevant to the applicant’s rights and obligations
It is important to establish the age of the applicant, because it makes a difference in terms of many statutory rights and obligations concerning, for example, child protection, compulsory education, criminal liability, working life and marriage.
Unaccompanied minor asylum seekers are also placed in group homes specially intended for children. District courts assign them a representative whose duty is to look after their interest when they are in contact with the authorities. Unaccompanied minors are interviewed by the Finnish Immigration Service in the presence of their representatives.
The minority or majority of an asylum seeker has no bearing on the grounds for international protection or the assessment of his or her need for protection. The same conditions apply to both minors and adults.
Further information for the media
Juha Kannelmaa, Senior Adviser, Asylum Unit, tel. 0295 430 431, [email protected]