The University of Iceland (HÍ) and the Directorate of Immigration (ÚTL) are currently trying to finalise a work agreement on determining the age of asylum seekers based on dental examinations—a procedure that has been heavily criticised as being inaccurate and yielding many false positives.
Stundin received confirmation on the agreement from Jón Atli Benediktsson, the rector at HÍ. Up until now, the university has been conducting these kinds of age determinations informally, in particular of asylum seeker children who arrive without an accompanying adult.
Student council at HÍ was both surprised and disappointed to learn the news, with Elísabet Brynjarsdóttir, the director of Student Council, telling reporters, “My personal opinion is that the university should not have anything to do with this. I believe dental age determination is in conflict with the university’s science ethics regulations, and the procedure is very controversial in academic circles due to inexact results and from an ethical point of view.”
Indeed, the latest research on dental age determination shows that their results—used to tell if someone is over the age of 18 based on their teeth—gives false positives up to a third of the time, because teeth cannot determine an exact age, teeth vary widely from person to person, and other reasons. The process casts enough doubt that the UK Home Office on assessing the age of refugees has abandoned the practice altogether.
Further, the science ethics regulations of the University of Iceland do stipulate that participants in any study the university does “cannot have been pressured to take part”, nor can the results of the study have any negative impacts on the participants’ lives.
While asylum seekers may refuse to undergo a dental examination for this purpose if they like, they must do so with the understanding that this may effect whether their application is accepted or not, although it is stipulated that their application will not be rejected for refusing the dental examination alone.
Despite the inaccuracy of dental age determination exams, ÚTL still frequently uses the method, and has used it as the basis for deportation decisions before.