Last week while responding to the perception that some of the so-called “child refugees’”coming into the UK from Calais appeared to be adults, I suggested in a Heat Street interview that a dental exam could be used to verify someone’s age if there were doubts.
I thought this might find its way into the odd newspaper or even lead to an interview somewhere on Welsh news – not least because it is an idea first suggested in 2007 by the Labour MP Liam Byrne.
I readily admit to being unprepared for the media furore I woke up to last Wednesday. Left-wing papers, activists, the British Dental Association, other MPs and celebrities lined up to angrily denounce me with varying degrees of hysteria.
— Nick Sutton (@suttonnick) October 18, 2016
The completely unwarranted condemnations also resulted in death threats which are now being investigated by the police.
A minority of adult asylum seekers will lie about their age in order to get favourable treatment. It shouldn’t be a big surprise that people willing to cut their way into moving lorries bound for the UK would not baulk at a few untruths. A recent BBC Radio 4 edition of More or Less discusses the issue in Sweden.
The UK Government offers guidance on the procedures to be followed when there is doubt over the age of asylum applicants claiming to be children. It clearly states while some are children, “others are clearly adults”.
So we have a problem that the UK Government, the BBC and all with a modicum of common sense would appear to recognise.
Dental checks are widely used across the world to give age assessments. The British Dental Association weighed into the debate decrying these checks as “unethical and inaccurate”.
The ethics we can come to; as far as accuracy is concerned, the BDA admitted checks are accurate to within four years and a report from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health suggests they are accurate to within two years.
Sometimes I find it difficult to believe I live in the same country as people like David Davieshttps://t.co/NigEXT8u0G
— Peter Burgess (@peterlewis100) October 19, 2016
Because of this, government officials currently accept them as evidence of age as is shown in section 6.6 of the guidance. However, they will only accept dental evidence when it is submitted by applicants who have been told they look older than they are. In other words, dental checks are accurate and ethical if they are used by asylum applicants to prove they are under 18; but inaccurate and unethical if somebody recommends they be used to prove someone is over 18.
I was likened to a “slave trader”, a “Nazi” and subjected to numerous rants from Piers “friend of Donald Trump” Morgan for daring to suggest otherwise.
Piers Morgan unprofessional overpaid gobby celeb pretending to be a serious interviewer. https://t.co/qDqbcsfCrE
— David Davies MP (@DavidTCDavies) October 19, 2016
Those worrying about ethics might want to consider the ethics of placing an adult man claiming to be a child into a foster home which may contain vulnerable children – or, indeed, into a school classroom. There are obvious child protection risks. Simply ignoring this to avoid being labelled racist is surely a disaster waiting to happen. Indeed, ignoring it would be unethical.
Over and again I have stated my support for government policy of bringing the most vulnerable children to Britain. I do not suggest all or even most be subjected to dental checks. I do say if there are obvious reasons to be doubtful i.e. the ‘child’ has whiskers, grey hair or looks to be in his (they are nearly always men) late 20s, then we should have the right to ask further questions and request medical proof of age if necessary.
— David Davies MP (@DavidTCDavies) October 18, 2016
The explosion of rage last week reminded me of the debate around Brexit. One section of the country simply does not understand what the rest are thinking.
The media, commentators and activists will shout and scream “racist” and “Nazi” at anyone who raises the slightest concern about immigration – even if it is done in the most moderate way.
Not surprisingly, most people will shy away from such abuse and either keep their opinions to themselves or share them only with those who they know to be like-minded. So the shouters think they have won and assume that because they don’t hear dissenting voices there are none.
Well there are. Alongside the abuse and death threats, I have received a massive amount of support from people across the country. Some are Labour voters, some are from minority backgrounds themselves. They are not racist. They want to help refugee children but do not believe in the sort of open door immigration policy which will be the result of not applying the rules.
The commentariat still can’t accept they lost the EU referendum because many people are fed up with having their views ignored. June 23 should have been an alarm call but most of them have simply rolled over and gone back to sleep. At some point they will be in for a rude awakening.
David Davies is MP for Monmouth