German doctors in stand against ‘invasive’ age testing of asylum-seekers

Doctors in Germany on Tuesday spoke out against proposals for medical tests to check the age of asylum-seekers.

Leading politicians have called for compulsory tests amid allegations that migrants are lying about their age and posing as minors in order to avoid deportation and claim extra benefits.

But senior doctors warned that medical tests would not be reliable and risked harming asylum-seekers’ health.

“The investigations are complex, expensive and laden with great uncertainty,” Prof Frank Ulrich Montgomery, the president of the German Medical Association said. “If you carried them out on every refugee, it could interfere with human wellbeing.”

The demands for medical tests have intensified since the killing of a 15-year-old girl who was stabbed to death with a kitchen knife in the street in south-west Germany last week.

An Afghan refugee is accused of killing her in a jealous rage after she broke off their relationship. He claims he is also 15 but her family believes he is much older.

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An Iranian asylum-seeker is already on trial for the rape and murder of a woman jogger in 2016. The accused initially claimed to be 16, but has since admitted he is in fact 33. 

Asylum applications in Germany

Under German law minors face lighter sentences if they are convicted of crimes.

Joachim Herrmann, the Bavarian interior minister, at the weekend called for mandatory age-testing and said his Christian Social Union party (CSU) would demand it in coalition talks with Angela Merkel.

“Too many asylum-seekers are still falsely posing as adolescents,” Mr Herrmann said. “I want everyone who comes to our country and claims to be a teenager to have their age be medically checked. Minors cost the state more money in special care and have a lower criminal liability. We cannot just leave it like that.”

Thomas Strobl, a senior MP in Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democrat party (CDU), called for compulsory X-rays to measure asylum-seekers’ bone development.

“In cases of doubt, we should turn to medical examinations such as the X-ray of the carpal bones,” he said.

But Prof Montgomery of the German Medical Association, a radiologist, said X-rays to test their age would expose migrants to unnecessary radiation.

“X-rays without a medical indication are an invasion of physical integrity,” he told Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

In criminal cases such as the killing of the 15-year-old girl, the courts can already order medical tests to determine the suspect’s age.

But medical experts say the tests are unreliable and that stress and trauma can cause the human body to age faster.