A Conservative MP has been accused of adding to the trauma of child refugees arriving from Calais after demanding teeth checks to weed out adults in disguise.
The British Association of Social Workers joined criticism of David Davies, after the Monmouth MP said “hulking teenagers who look older than 18” should undergo the tests.
Ruth Allen, the Association’s chief executive, told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that such tests would be unethical.
She said: “We are talking about young people, children, of course adults as well, who have often been through incredible amounts of trauma, torture and abuse.
“Intrusive medical tests are not necessarily going to be at all appropriate and would be considered to be very intrusive and would be retraumatising.”
Ms Allen agreed with the British Dental Association (BDA) that dental checks are not accurate, calling for the focus instead to be on the “hundreds of children” in the camp who had a right to come to the UK.
However, Mr Davies defended his stance today, insisting the authorities must not be “naive” about the issue of adults trying to get into the UK.
He also turned his fire on Lily Allen, after the singer’s apology to Calais migrants “on behalf of Britain”, saying: “It’s no good Lily Allen turning up with tears in her eyes and all the rest of it.
“We need to be quite hard-nosed here. People are desperate, I understand that, and they will say what they need to say to get in.
“When I was in the camp in Calais there were caravans with notices on saying ‘Come here, we will coach you in what to say to get into the UK’.”
Mr Davies added: “Someone who is willing to throw themselves on to an electrified rail line, or jump into a moving lorry, isn’t going to be terribly worried about having an X-ray.”
Images of some of those arriving in Britain on Monday were splashed across tabloid papers, with headlines suggesting they may not be under 18.
The UK has committed to take more child refugees from Calais Jungle refugee camp as the French authorities seek to close it down.
Refugees are supposed to claim asylum in the first safe country they reach after fleeing conflict or persecution. But under the Dublin regulation, they can seek asylum elsewhere if they are minors and have family ties there.
A BDA spokesman said: “We are vigorously opposed to the use of dental X-rays to determine whether asylum seekers have reached 18.
“It’s not only an inaccurate method for assessing age, but it is both inappropriate and unethical to take radiographs of people when there is no health benefit for them.”
However, The Times reported that, in the year up to September 2015, nearly two thirds of child refugees whose age was questioned by officials were found to be over 18.
Of 590 asylum applicants whose age was disputed, 574 were recorded as having an age assessment. Of those, 65 per cent were found to be adults.
Home Office officials are unable to carry out dental checks because such tests require parental consent – and the children are unaccompanied.
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