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Council of Europe publishes report on age assessment

26 September 2017

In September 2017, a report entitled 'Age Assessment: Council of Europe member states' policies, procedures and practices respectful of children's rights in the context of migration' was published by the Children's Rights Division of the Council of Europe. The report has been prepared by an independent researcher and consultant, and is based on a survey on age assessment procedures in Council of Europe member states in spring 2017 and on a literature review. The report also refers to the 2009 SCEP Statement of Good Practice and the 2012 SCEP Position Paper on Age Assessment in the Context of Separated Children in Europe.  

Rights and procedural safeguards not upheld consistently
According to the report, there is currently no common approach with regard to age assessment policies, procedures and practice in the Council of Europe member states. Furthermore, the rights and procedural safeguards provided by international and European standards are not upheld consistently across the member states. Furthermore, age assessment procedures have been criticised for lacking a scientific and empirical basis and because of the high risk of arbitrary results. In addition, some methods that are used are considered invasive and may cause physical or mental harm to the individual undergoing the age assessment.  

Jantine Walst, coordinator of the Separated Children in Europe Programme (SCEP): "This report underlines the need for common European standards and appropriate safeguards concerning age assessment so that children's rights will be respected. Age assessment should be initiated with the genuine and primary aim of ensuring protection to separated children. It is fundamental to note that age assessment is not an exact science and that, when making an age assessment, individuals whose age is being assessed should be given the benefit of doubt."  

Recommendations to member states  
The report provides some recommendations to Council of Europe member states:
  States should ensure that age assessment procedures are rights-based, child-sensitive and carried out with due diligence;
  The development of standards and safeguards for age assessment procedures that are human- rights based requires measures to ensure that age assessment procedures are institutionally and structurally integrated into social welfare and child protection systems that ensure continuity between the human rights of children, adolescents and young adults;
   Age assessment procedures should promote the best interests of the child, the development of the young person, and his or her transition into adulthood and independent life;
   The procedure and outcomes of the age assessment should safeguard the human rights of the person irrespective of rigid age limits.

Separated Children in Europe Programme (SCEP) - coordinated by Defence for Children The Netherlands - PO BOX 11103 - 2301 EC - Leiden - 0031 (0)71 516 09 80 - info@scepnetwork.org