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Age determination in young asylum seekers under discussion

The way age is determined by the IND is being questioned as a result of several court rulings. The problem is that it is difficult to determine whether a young asylum seeker is just over or under the age of 18. So far there is no suitable way to determine exactly how old someone is, Mark Klaassen, associate professor of immigration law at Leiden University, told Dutch news programme 'Nieuwsuur'. Also internationally, there is not yet an accepted method to determine someone's exact age.

Age review

More and more judges are having to deal with young asylum seekers who claim to be minors while the IND or immigration police consider them to be adults. Specially trained IND officials conduct a so-called age verification (leeftijdschouw in Dutch). During an interview, they look at behaviour, statements based on questions, and external characteristics. On the basis of these three characteristics, they reach a well-founded conclusion as to whether someone is obviously a minor or an adult, or whether there are doubts about their stated age. According to recent rulings, however, judges are more critical of the age review as it is currently being conducted. Several courts are of the opinion that the conclusions are not transparent and thus have not been reached with the required due care. 

Rapid family reunification

The number of minor asylum seekers has doubled in recent years. In the Netherlands, minors have more privileges than in other European countries, including rapid family reunification. This is extremely important, inquiries reveal. 'Often asylum seekers in Italy or Greece give an older age in order to be able to travel on to a country where conditions are better, such as the Netherlands', Klaassen said. 'This means that "doubt" during the age check therefore actually means that the asylum seeker is eventually registered as an adult.'

Incorrect age determination

What are the consequences of an incorrect age determination? If an asylum seeker is incorrectly registered as a person of full age, they may be transferred to another Member State and will not be assigned a guardian and will not be eligible for family reunification. Because when in doubt, asylum seekers are almost always declared to be adults in practice. According to asylum lawyers and refugee work, 100 young migrants are now wrongly in adult care. They will still try to get their rights.

Klaassen believes there is sufficient reason for the State Secretary to take another critical look at the age review procedure and make it more careful.


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