07:45 GMT +318 July 2019
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    Sweden Finds Bizarre Way to Deal With ‘Bearded Children'

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    A new type of examination of the knee joint provides a more accurate age assessment, Sweden's National Board says. This may turn out to be a long-awaited solution to the problem of adult refugees who go benefit-hunting, claiming to be underage.

    An MRI examination of the knee joint is a relatively safe way to make a medical age assessment of underage asylum seekers. According to Lars-Torsten Larsson, department chief at the National Board, there is room for its implementation in Sweden. The MRI method has proven to be much accurate in comparison with other methods used today, with the margin of error within three percent for boys/men and seven percent for girls/women, he told Swedish Radio.

    Last year, Sweden took in over 163,000 asylum seekers, of which over 35,000 are claimed to be underage. In reality, quite a number of them are suspected to be adults. Age verification determines the treatment of the new arrivals as well as their level of responsibility in case of trial proceedings, which have been quite numerous. A significant amount of age manipulation cases, the most outrageous of which even drew the media's attention, has given rise to the colloquial meme "Löfven's bearded children' after PM Stefan Löfven, who has been a stalwart supporter of the country's immigration policy, which is by many rejected as "over-lenient".

    Refugees sleep outside the entrance of the Swedish Migration Agency's arrival center
    © AFP 2019 / TT NEWS AGENCY / STIG-AKE JONSSON
    Meanwhile, Justice Minister Morgan Johansson is looking forward to a "high level of ambition" from the Migration Board in addressing the problem of correct age assessment, as the government is preparing to demand a ‘once and for all' solution.

    "For the government's part, we are anxious to get started on a large scale as soon as possible," Morgan Johansson told Swedish Radio.

    The current system of age assessment has been severely criticized by experts and laymen alike. The Swedish Pediatric Society proclaimed, for example, that it discouraged its members from using the current methods.

    Anna Bärtås, pediatrician and deputy chairman of the Swedish Pediatric Society, believes that magnetic resonance imaging of knee joints is a promising method.

    "Age assessment needs to be done carefully and with knowledge of the problems that exist. But provided you do so, this method is promising," she said.

    According to the National Board, the Migration Board's own staff may handle the equipment required to administer age tests, whereas the necessary equipment should be available in ten places across the country. Later, MRI images are to be assessed by a doctor.

    It must be added that medical age assessment today remains strictly voluntary. According to the Ministry of Justice, there are no plans of changing this.

    Topic:
    Major Migrant Crisis in Europe (1819)
    Tags:
    immigration policy, refugees, medicine, Scandinavia, Sweden
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