Detriment of the Doubt: Age Assessment of Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children

The European Database of Asylum Law (EDAL) is an online database co-ordinated by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) and a compilation of summaries of refugee and asylum case law from the courts of 17 EU Member States, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). The summaries are published in English and in the relevant Member State’s national language.

EDAL recently published a legal briefing (1) which examines the core principles governing the treatment of children in the asylum process, namely the « best interests of the child », and the « benefit of the doubt ». The latter principle requires public authorities to treat asylum seekers as children when in doubt as to their minority or majority.

Through an overview of practice in European countries, this briefing identifies areas where these principles are at risk of being sidestepped by asylum authorities when conducting age assessments. The over-reliance of States on medical methods of age determination exposes children too readily to intrusive examinations of dubious accuracy, which are often immune from legal challenge. At the same time, States are often predisposed to treat self-declared minors as adults until their age has been confirmed, thereby exposing them to detention, deportation or the application of the Dublin Regulation.

(1) AIDA Legal Briefing No 5, December 2015:

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