In a unanimous decision on March 6, The University Council for the University of Iceland has terminated a contract with the Directorate of Immigration, involving the University’s Odontology Department performing a dental-exam analysis on young international-protection applicants on behalf of the Directorate. The contract has been heavily criticised by students of the University.
Grounds for an Amendment
In March, 2019, the University of Iceland signed a contract with the Directorate of Immigration whereby the University’s Odontology Department was to conduct dental-age analysis on international-protection applicants in Iceland in instances when it was unclear whether or not they were under 18 years of age (if applicants are under 18, they are automatically granted asylum, whereas if they are over 18, they may be deported).
In a statement published on the University’s website today, the University Council notes that during the time that the contract was signed, the University of Iceland notified the Minister of Justice that a joint general comment from the United Nations on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, dating from November 16, 2017, could be grounds for amending the Foreign Nationals Act (80/2016), including the Directorate of Immigration’s procedures involving age assessment.
According to the United Nations’ document, states should undertake a “comprehensive assessment of the child’s physical and psychological development, conducted by specialist paediatricians or other professionals who are skilled in combining different aspects of development.” Furthermore, states should refrain from using “medical methods based on, inter alia, bone and dental exam analysis, which may be inaccurate, with wide margins of error.”
The University of Iceland presented a similar argument in a written comment to Parliament on a proposed amendment to the Foreign Nationals Act in the fall of 2019. The University Council had expected the government to respond to its comments – involving an amendment to the procedures of the Directorate of Immigration wherein a comprehensive assessment of applicants for international protection would be adopted, and that dental-exam analysis would only be employed in limited cases – but as no amendments were made during the time that the contract was in effect, the University Council has decided to discontinue its contract with the Directorate of Immigration.