Tool to estimate the age of young asylum seekers

young asylum seekers, x-rayx-ray, Photo:

Tool to estimate the age of young asylum seekers

The Directorate of Immigration will apply a new method for calculating the age of young asylum seekers. The new method has better founding in science than previous methods.


The age test method that was employed until the turn of the year met a lot of criticism, including from the Norwegian Doctors association (Legeforeningen).

The Department of Forensic Sciences at Oslo University Hospital, which are nationally responsible for age estimation of unescorted minor asylum seekers, has now developed a new statistical tool called “BioAlder” (Bio Age) . The tool is based on X-ray of wisdom teeth and bones located in the hand

– We are very pleased to have an improved age determination. This is something we have initiated and it is funded by us, says Hanne Jendal to NTB. She is Director of the Asylum Division at the Immigration Directorate (UDI),

X-ray of teeth and hands

– There is not one method available that determines the age with 100 percent safety. But this tool is more scientific and objective than the previously employed, she states.

The improved method is based on X-raying the teeth and hand ones, similar to before.

– The tool is built on a statistical calculation model based on studies of development in more than 14,000 young people of known chronological age. The numerical material includes studies made in 15 different countries.

BioAlder is used in assessing the developmental stages of each asylum seeker based on x-rays of the applicant’s hand and wisdom teeth, and is comparable to the statistical basis of the model. The model provides an estimate of the applicant’s chronological age span, according to the statement from the hospital.

– The results are more scientifically sound than before, Jendal states.

BioAlder is based on research from 20 scientific publications in its first release.

Voluntary testing

Previously, there was a two-year safety margin built into the age determination. If someone after the age survey was deemed to be 19, this was reduced to 17 to be on the safe side.

– For us, it remains to be seen how this method, which is based on probability calculation, will be used. There will be some uncertainty attached to this, which we will consider. But this is the best we can provide at present,she continues.

All applicants who claim that they are below 18 years of age, and where the police or UDI are questioning their claim, will be age-tested. Even though the survey is voluntary, the law states that it can be taken into consideration that the applicant has declined to be tested when the asylum case is being reviewed.

Overall assessment

Jendal emphasizes that age is not just assessed based on medical examinations.

– Age is always based on an overall conclusion where assessment of age is compared with our observations. Additionally, we asses reports from the police and others who have met the asylum seeker.

The tool is however, meant to be a temporary solution. The Department of Forensic Sciences is currently studying molecular biology methods for age estimation.

Between January and October 2016, 1,700 asylum seekers were scrutinized. 40 percent were deemed to be 20 years or older.

Since UDI has employed a two-year safety margin, many are presumed to 18 years or older. Applicants who are suspected of being 19-years-old will therefore be treated as if they are 17-year-olds. Nine out of ten asylum seekers treated as being minors are given stay in Norway.


© NTB Scanpix / Norway Today