Scientific age assessments of migrants who claim to be children will start this year, the immigration minister has confirmed.
The oldest asylum seeker yet discovered pretending to be a child was actually found to be 41, Robert Jenrick said.
He told MPs that medical assessments – thought to include X-rays or MRI scans – will initially run in parallel with existing tests which are based on behavioural and language studies.
‘That will happen over the course of this year,’ Mr Jenrick told MPs in the Commons.
‘The oldest individual that we’ve encountered who posed as a child was subsequently found to be 41 years of age.
‘We do take the issue of age assessment extremely seriously.
‘There are individuals who abuse the system – that’s wrong as a matter of principle but it’s also a serious safeguarding risk to genuine children.
‘It’s important that we weed out those cases of abuse because it poses such a risk.
‘I’m afraid we’ve seen some very tragic instances such as the murder that occurred in Bournemouth at the behest of somebody who had posed as a child.’
Mr Jenrick was referring to the case of Afghan asylum seeker Lawangeen Abdulrahimzai who fatally stabbed aspiring Royal Marine Tom Roberts last year.
Abdulrahimzai was on the run from murder charges in Serbia when he arrived in Britain, and was later convicted in his absence of gunning down two people with a Kalashnikov assault rifle.
The Home Office commissioned a report, published in January, which said migrants suspected of pretending to be children could undergo a range of medical tests to determine their true age.
It recommended a combination of X-rays of the wisdom teeth and the hand or wrist, plus MRI scans of the knee or collarbone.
The move may prove controversial because medics have opposed the use of X-rays for non-medical reasons.
Other shocking cases in which adult asylum seekers claimed to be children include Ahmad Otak who in 2012 forced his ex-girlfriend to watch him murder her sister and her friend after she refused to take him back.
A court heard the Afghan lied about his age to get preferential treatment from social services, but Otak was actually 22.
Others include Parson’s Green terrorist Ahmed Hassan, who posed as a 16-year-old before setting off a bomb on a Tube train in west London in 2017, injuring 23 people.
A judge said he was satisfied the bomber was between 18 and 21.
Other adult migrants have ended up in schools being taught alongside young teenage children.
Migrants who claim to be under 18 receive better housing and support, a more sympathetic hearing in their asylum claim and are less likely to be detained.
Under current rules, local authorities are not allowed to carry out physical examinations of asylum seekers suspected of lying about their age.
Instead, social workers estimate the person’s age by assessing their behaviour and language skills.
In 2021 the British Dental Association said it ‘vigorously opposed’ using dental X-rays to establish asylum seekers’ ages.