Conservative party allies of German Chancellor Angela Merkel want minors seeking asylum to undergo medical age tests, but the German Medical Association says it could be a violation of ethics.
As the country continues to grapple with the flood of migrants accepted by Merkel’s government in 2015 and the repercussions it’s having politically, the debate over verifying the age of unaccompanied minors took on a new urgency after a 15-year-old German girl was fatally stabbed last week by an Afghan migrant who police identified as her ex-boyfriend.
The suspect’s documents say he is 15, but the girl’s father told German media he believed the migrant was older. Some say migrants lie about their age to qualify for benefits for unaccompanied minors or because if they commit a crime, they would not be tried as an adult.
In an election in September, the issue of migrants helped bring the far-right Alternative for Germany party into parliament for the first time ever—leaving the country’s government destabilized and unable to form a grand ruling coalition.
Immigration will continue to be a major issue as Merkel seeks to renew a coalition agreement with the center-left SDP party, after both her ruling conservatives and the SDP lost votes in the election. The Bavarian CSU party, which is part of her conservative bloc, has sought a tougher line in particular.
Reuters reports that German authorities have registered nearly 70,000 unaccompanied minors seeking asylum over the last three years, but critics have argued that some of them may not be minors, and could be falsifying their ages to qualify for benefits and protection from deportation.
A CSU draft resolution calls for mandatory tests for minors seeking asylum when there is doubt about their ages.
“I believe that we will require in the future, from all allegedly underage refugees for whom we have specific doubts about their minority, a compulsory medical assessment on entering” the country, Stephan Mayer, a CSU domestic policy expert, told Reuters.
Mayer said medical tests in other EU countries such as Austria and Sweden had revealed that a significant proportion of age information provided by asylum seekers was incorrect.
“Particularly, since numerous privileges such as much more complex care and a ban on deportation are tied to the status of being minor,” Mayer said Tuesday.
The head of the German Medical Association, Frank Ulrich Montgomery, said an age test, which could involve X-rays of teeth and wrist bones, could be unethical and inaccurate.
"Ordering such an exam on every refugee would be an invasion of personal well-being,” the association's president Frank Ulrich Montgomery told Süddeutsche Zeitung. “The examination is laborious, expensive and is loaded with major uncertainties.”
The tests involved exposing people to radiation, which is normally impermissible without a medical indication, except in criminal proceedings, he said.