Dental Tribune UK & Ireland

BDA blasts potential migrant dental checks as “unethical”

By Brendan Day, Dental Tribune International
August 13, 2021

LONDON, UK: In 2016, the Member of Parliament for Monmouth, David Davies, courted controversy when he suggested that dental checks could be used to verify the age of teenage Syrian and Afghani refugees whom he believed looked “older than 18”. Five years later, UK Home Secretary Priti Patel has come under fire from the British Dental Association (BDA) after it was reported in The Times that the Home Office’s Nationality and Borders Bill would allow dental radiographs to be used to ascertain asylum seekers’ ages.

The bill was introduced into the House of Commons last month, and the Home Office declared at the time that it contained “the most radical changes to the broken asylum system in decades” and would allow “the UK to take full control of its borders”. According to analysis conducted by the charity the Refugee Council, more than 9,000 people who would be accepted as refugees into the UK under existing regulations would be barred from entering the country were the bill to be passed.

“This anti-refugee bill will drive an already inefficient and ineffective system into disarray with even worse delays and far greater expense,” Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council, remarked in a press release.

According to a report from The Times, one of the measures of the bill would be the introduction of a new national panel that would use dental examinations, among other methods, to determine whether asylum seekers had yet reached 18 years of age. In response, the BDA issued a press release in which it strongly opposed this approach and stressed that dental radiographs are “an inaccurate method for assessing age”. The trade union additionally stated that dental radiographs should only be taken when there is a clinical benefit to be gained and that doing so for other reasons is “unethical”.

“This is a retrograde step from Priti Patel,” Dr Eddie Crouch, chair of the BDA’s Principal Executive Committee, declared.

He added: “In 2016 the Home Office ruled out dental checks for migrants, which we considered inaccurate, inappropriate and unethical. In 2021, the science and ethics have not changed.”

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