Refugee Children Arriving In Britain Stir Controversy

| by Sarah Zimmerman
Syrian refugeesSyrian refugees

As child migrants are sent to Britain from the now-closed refugee camp in Calais, France, British officials are becoming increasingly concerned about the ages of these "children" entering the country.  

French President Francois Hollande has closed the Calais refugee camp, commonly known as the "Jungle" camp, due to increasing pressure from locals. He has begun resettling thousands of migrants into local French towns and provinces, according to Reuters.

Unaccompanied minors who have fled war-torn countries like Afghanistan, Syria and Sudan will head across the English Channel to Britain -- if they have family members there -- as part of family reunification rules imposed by the EU.

Some in Britain are concerned about the actual ages of these alleged refugee children entering the country. The Home Office has no way of confirming the migrants' real ages and it is reported that two-thirds of minor refugees applying for asylum in Britain are actually adults. One migrant photographed arriving in England had stubble and a facial recognition program estimated his approximate age at 38, according to the Daily Mail.

Officials deny claims they are letting adult refugees into the country, saying each migrant undergoes a rigorous interview process and document check to ensure they are minors. 

A Home Office spokesman said the screening process verifies a person's age based on their "physical appearance" and "demeanor." The spokesman says the minors look older than they actually are because "because war has toughened them up."

Many fear that adult refugees are trying to pass as children to enter the country. "This is just a joke. Some of these people are clearly not children, they’re not even young men," said Member of Parliament David Davies. "There is no way of knowing if someone is a child. We could end up causing even more misery if we are not careful."

Some are pushing for Home Office officials to perform dental X-ray checks to verify a migrant's age. The Home Office is rigorously opposed to this initiative, saying it is intrusive, according to The Guardian.

The British Dental Association agrees with the Home Office's decision, saying dental X-rays are "not only an inaccurate method for assessing age," but also "inappropriate and unethical."

Sources: Daily Mail, The Guardian, Reuters / Photo credit: Freedom House/Flickr

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