Dental Age Analysis of Asylum Seekers Unethical, Critics Say Skip to content
Háskóli Íslands University of Iceland
Photo: Golli. The University of Iceland.

Dental Age Analysis of Asylum Seekers Unethical, Critics Say

Students and staff at the University of Iceland are speaking out against the institution’s practice of conducting dental age estimation on young asylum seekers, Stundin reports. “We are very alarmed that this was done without a contract, within the university[…]and that some payments were made and it’s unclear who received them,” says Elísabet Brynjarsdóttir, president of the University of Iceland Student Council and one of the individuals who has spoken out about the practice, carried out in service of the Directorate of Immigration.

Physical analysis without a contract

The university has been performing dental analysis of asylum seekers in order to determine their age on behalf of the Directorate of Immigration for years, apparently without a formal contract. The Student Council, alongside the National Union for Icelandic Students, as well as employees and doctoral students of the University of Iceland Schools of Education and Humanities issued a statement recently harshly criticising the practice at the institution.

Opponents of the practice say it goes against the university’s ethical guidelines, which stipulate that researchers should not work against the interests of disadvantaged or marginalised groups. They have also pointed out the social role of educational institutions and the importance of keeping their work separate from that of governmental institutions such as the Directorate of Immigration.

University of Iceland Rector Jón Atli Benediktsson sent an email to the school’s employees last week stating all dental assessments would be suspended while the matter was being considered by the School of Health Sciences. Student Council President Elísabet says the council’s position is simple: they are wholeheartedly opposed to the University conducting dental age estimation on young asylum seekers, whether or not the practice is governed by a formal agreement.

Incorrect analysis

Stundin reported in October that a 17-year-old asylum seeker was wrongly assessed to be 18 years of age by a dental age estimation carried out at the University of Iceland. “We have confirmed examples here in Iceland of when dental age estimation did not give a correct analysis,” stated  Guðríður Lára Þrastardóttir, a spokesperson for asylum seekers at the Icelandic Red Cross.

Unaccompanied asylum seekers who are minors have certain rights which those 18 years and older do not. Their position is automatically considered vulnerable and they may not be, for example, deported on the basis of the Dublin Regulation. In cases where asylum seekers assert they are under 18 but do not have reliable identification, certain countries will use physical analysis such as dental age estimation to determine the individual’s age.

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