In recent years, Sweden has received the highest number of asylum seekers per capita in Europe, which has led to the popular belief that its hospitality often gets abused by migrants who claim to be underage to obtain more benefits. After debating the matter, Sweden is launching a new method to set the record straight and catch the imposters.
Faced with the worst migrant crisis in its modern history, Sweden took in over 163,000 asylum seekers in 2015. About 35,000 of them claimed to be underage, a fact that is still largely disputed, since Sweden ran no conclusive tests on the newcomers and often took their word for granted due to the migrants' lack of documents and the government's lack of assessment procedures.
Following months of heated debates, Sweden's Migration Board has struck back by X-raying the knees and wisdom teeth of asylum seekers to determine whether or not they're old enough to qualify. The National Board of Forensic Medicine will be responsible for the procedure, Swedish Radio reported.
Åsa Carlander Hemingway, unit head at the Migration Board, called medical age assessment a "particularly good tool" for the applicant to verify his or her age to the Migration Board and thus prove that there are grounds for granting asylum.
So far, 1,340 people have been offered the opportunity to undergo the procedure; 1,207 have accepted it. In total, there are approximately 18,000 so-called unaccompanied children still waiting for their residence permit applications to be examined by the Migration Board. Of those, up to 14,000 will be considered eligible for a medical age assessment.
"Age assessment is only one means of proving one's age. The applicant may submit other documents and provide a credible story verbally," Åsa Carlander Hemingway told Swedish Radio.
In 2016, Sweden's handling of underage asylum seekers was criticized by specialists and tax-payers alike.
"I'm scared of the poor quality of the age assessments made by the Swedish Migration Board. It appears that conclusions are not drawn on a legal basis, but are more of a guess," Anders Sundquist, a lawyer at the Counseling Office for asylum seekers and refugees, told Swedish Radio.
However, the idea of medical age assessment, which has already been implemented in other Nordic nations, met with fierce resistance from left-leaning Swedish politicians and activists, who suggested it was inhumane. Nevertheless, Sweden's self-proclaimed image of a "humanitarian superpower" seems to be in no danger, regardless of the innovations.
"How big is the margin of error, anyway? Generally speaking, it is very small. We have chosen a method that makes it more likely to classify an adult as a child," Elias Palm of the National Board of Forensic Medicine told Swedish Radio.
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