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Home Office should not resurrect child asylum seeker dental x-ray scheme

Following pressure from a number of concerned groups including BASW, the UK Border Agency has been forced to suspend a dental x-ray pilot scheme to determine the age of child asylum seekers.

The scheme was heavily criticised by BASW for its lack of a consultation process with social care, health or legal professionals, particularly as the pilot was announced by the Home Office just a day before it was due to begin.

BASW condemned the government’s “complete lack of awareness of the complex issues that this pilot raises”, and also pointed out that “social workers need the time and resources to build relationships with unaccompanied minors to help ascertain their age, and their legal entitlement to services, rather than scrutinising them like a specimen in a science lab”.

Zilla Bowell, Director of Asylum at the UK Border Agency, has stated in a letter to stakeholders, that following discussion with the National Research Ethics Service (NRES),”no x-rays will take place until such time as we have the appropriate ethical approval”.

Commenting on the suspension, BASW professional officer Nushra Mansuri, said:

“The UK Border Agency has stonewalled questions on whether or not they sought the requisite ethical permissions to mount this trial for a month.

“We find it ironic that, despite their protestations, it now transpires that they were so insensitive to the ethics raised by the trial, they even didn’t bother to obtain ethical consent from NRES. We are pleased that the UK Border Agency has halted the pilot, but hope this is not a mere technicality. This scheme is morally wrong, and we do not want to see it resurrected once the chorus of disapproval dies down”.