European Countries Grapple with Migrant Age-Fraud

Sweden implements measures to verify refugee children aren't actually adults

Sweden has begun examining asylum seekers’ teeth and knee joints in efforts to verify their ages.

The new process, which was first announced in September 2016 but begins implementation on Tuesday, comes after repeated instances of young, mainly male adult Muslim migrants reportedly posing as children.

“We are confronted by grown men with full beards and gray hair who claim to be 17 years old.”

When the policy was announced last year, there were serious doubts about the accuracy of 70 percent of the unaccompanied minors who claimed to be between 15 and 17 years old, according to Sweden’s migration board (Migrationsverket).

In 2015 and 2016, 37,199 asylum applications were made by so-called “child” refugees. If 70 percent could be fraudulent, as authorities have suggested, more than 26,000 adult migrants may have falsely claimed to be children.

The consequences of this deception can be serious. In February 2016, Youssaf Khaliif Nuur, a Somali migrant posing as a child, murdered an aid worker in a child’s refugee center. In May 2016, an Eritrean migrant posing as a child molested the 10-year old daughter of the woman who took him in.

This isn’t a new problem for Sweden. In 2012, Swedes were shocked when a photograph of Saad Alsaud, “the fastest 14-year-old in Sweden,” were published. It became immediately obvious to from the photograph that Mr. Aslaud was a grown man.

The fastest “14-year-old” in Sweden (Credit: Daily Mail)

But the Muslim migrant crisis that began in 2015 has surely amplified the trend of adult male migrants posing as children to gain asylum, and ensured that it has spread to other European countries.

A minor scandal erupted in the United Kingdom in October 2016 following the arrival of a number of “child” migrants who were clearly adults. The fact that “official figures show that two-thirds of ‘child’ refugees who were quizzed by the Home Office about their age were found to be adults,” as the Daily Mail reported at the time, only heightened the scandal.

“In the year ending September 2015, 590 age disputes were raised against asylum seekers claiming to be under 18,” the Mail reported. “Of that number, 574 were put through screening and 371 were found to be adults lying about their age — or 65 per cent.”

The scandal was immortalized in a photograph of one of the so-called child migrants, a grown man with a five-o’clock shadow dressed in a blue hoodie, waving and smiling to onlookers.

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Finally, in an apparent — and embarrassing — effort at damage control, officials erected a fence outside of the entrance to the immigration center in an effort to shield more arriving “child” migrants from photographers and the media.

In August 2016, the Austrian newspaper Kurier reported that in the previous year Austrian authorities conducted age tests on roughly 2,200 child migrants suspected of lying about their age. Nearly half — 951 — turned out to indeed be adults.

“It is partially absurd,” a police officer from Traiskirchen told Kurier on condition of anonymity. “We are confronted by grown men with full beards and gray hair who claim to be 17 years old,” he said.