UK Government Proposal to Introduce X-Ray Testing on Children Seeking Safety

21 September 2023

The UK Government is proposing ionising radiation as an age-assessment test for young people who are seeking asylum.

Publishing a Justification Decision and a draft explanatory memorandum, they are taking steps to normalise this invasive and potentially harmful test. Its implementation would set a worrying precedent for asylum-seeking young people. 

Once in use, Section 58 of the Illegal Migration Act will mean that any person who refuses to give consent will be assumed to be deceiving the Home Office. Their lives and futures lie entirely in the hands of the Home Office; young people seeking asylum will effectively be under duress to provide consent to undergo the test. Refusal to do so will damage their chances of being granted asylum. We are concerned about the possible failures for the Home Office to provide the right conditions for informed consent standards to be met for young people. 

The Secretary of State received advice from the Home Office Chief Scientific Adviser and the Age Estimation Science Advisory Committee asserting that “The use of ionising radiation must be limited, with the ultimate aim of eradicating its use. Continuing research into the use of non-ionising imaging, such as MRI, should be supported”. They also stated their view that “no automatic assumptions or consequences should result from refusal to consent”. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has described the proposals as “unethical”. 

The Society of Radiographers rejected the plans, originally proposed by Priti Patel on the grounds that the “… concept shows a lack of compassion to those in need, as well as disregard for radiation safety and a blatant lack of understanding and respect for the work of radiographers and the health service.” We condemn these proposals and consider them to be a violation of the rights of the child. Unfortunately, as we have seen before, unanimous condemnation often only leads the Home Office to brand another group of experts as “woke” in a bid to normalise another hostile policy.  

Adam Paterson (Advocacy and Campaigns Officer) and Iona Taylor (Advocacy and Campaigns Lead)

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