Passport

No, British Dentists Will Not Humiliate Refugees by Forcibly Examining Their Teeth

After a lawmaker suggested dental checks on refugees, British dentists refused.

ALTERNATIVE CROP
A man uses a dental X-ray to watch a partial solar eclipse in Pristina on March 20, 2015.  AFP PHOTO / ARMEND NIMANI        (Photo credit should read ARMEND NIMANI/AFP/Getty Images)
ALTERNATIVE CROP A man uses a dental X-ray to watch a partial solar eclipse in Pristina on March 20, 2015. AFP PHOTO / ARMEND NIMANI (Photo credit should read ARMEND NIMANI/AFP/Getty Images)

When images began circulating of children being relocated from the makeshift refugee camp in Calais, France to their relatives’ homes in Britain, most people saw them as proof that resettlement programs could work.

But David Davies, a Tory lawmaker in Britain, saw them as something else: a threat to British hospitality. Suspicious that the children looked older than 18, and thus would not legally qualify for resettlement, he suggested they be subject to medical exams to test teeth and bone density to prove their age — and hopefully weed out those he believes are lying about their identities in order to seek refuge in the United Kingdom.

“People in Britain want to help children but we don’t want to be taken for a free ride either, by people who seem to have got to the front of the queue even though they clearly look in some cases a lot older than 18,” he said this week.

The suggestion sparked outrage from the British Dental Association, which said in a statement Wednesday that Davies’ suggested method is inaccurate and invasive for asylum-seekers who have already experienced trauma en route to Britain.

“It is both inappropriate and unethical to take radiographs of people when there is no health benefit for them,” the statement said.

And by Wednesday afternoon, the British Home Office had also shot down the suggestion. A spokesman for the office called dental x-rays “inaccurate” and said it “does not use dental x-rays to confirm the ages of those seeking asylum in the U.K.,” but rather works with French authorities and various partners to ensure accuracy in information about those arriving in Britain. A number of organizations working in the Calais camp also dismissed Davies’ suggestion as ludicrous, pointing out that many children look older than they are because they have endured such hardship on their travels.

In solidarity, Brits began posting images of themselves from their teenage years on social media with #RefugeesWelcome.

Photo credit: ARMEND NIMANI/AFP/Getty Images

Siobhán O’Grady is a freelance journalist working across sub-Saharan Africa. She previously worked as a staff writer at Foreign Policy. @siobhan_ogrady

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