The UK has become a popular country of refuge for asylum seekers due to the protection and support it has the potential to offer. Over 23,000 applications were made in 2006, a significant proportion of these being made by unaccompianied minors.
Children who cannot prove they are under the age of 18 are subjected by the Home Office to interviews which are often conducted by non-specialist government officials in hostile environments. The decision of the age of the child frequently falls to one opinion, and if wrong, a child, treated as an adult, may be come subject to physical and mental trauma.
After acknowledging theneed for improvement, the Home Office suggested the use of dental and bone x-rays in determining the age of applicants. Responses to this from medical bodies highlighted the concern regarding the use of ionizing radiation with no clinical benefit , as well as the innacuracy of the method.
The ideal method for assessing the age of unaccompianied minors was concluded to be a holistic approach involving physical assessment of growth and puberty as well as cognitive, behavioural and emotional assessment.