French Constitutional Council Approves Bone Test For Migrants

The French Constitutional Council (FCC) approved on 21 March, the implementation of bone tests to determine the accurate age of young migrants.  The bone examinations of the hand and wrist will help determine whether a migrant is a minor or an adult.

Medical experts and lawyers criticized the method and described it as outdated and unreliable. The FCC admitted that the hand X-rays may not be reliable due to the tests having a significant margin of error.

However, the FCC believes that the effectiveness of the tests would be the responsibility of the proper administrative and judicial authorities.

According to the FCC, the law provided sufficient guarantees that would ensure the rights of each subject would be respected.

Lawyer Isabelle Zribi, speaking outside the Constitutional Council, claimed that there was a high improbability with the practice and results will be inconclusive:

“There are many causes of error on these tests.”

Zribi added that the margin of error is quite significant and should not be ignored. The test could have a margin of error of 2 to 3 years in determining the migrant’s age.

Zribi argued that the procedure is inaccurate, citing an example that someone could have bones that looked to be 18 years of age but was actually only 14. 

“There is no scientific truth in bone testing and you will find no one today who says the opposite,” she said.

Jacques Toubon, the head of the Defenders of Human Rights organization, said that he has vehemently opposed to the tests which he described as “ill-adjusted, inefficient, and undignified”.

The Constitutional Council clarified that a bone test can only be requested if the person in question did not have valid documents to verify his/her identity and if it seems not possible that the person is as old as he/she has stated.

It can only intervene after “the informed consent of the person concerned has been obtained in a language he understands”.

The Council stated that, if the migrant is declared a minor, he will be entitled to the protection provided by law.  If he is declared an adult, the street awaits him, or a return to the border.

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