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French Constitutional Council approves bone tests to determine migrant age

The hand X-ray test is criticised as an outdated method of verifying age.
The hand X-ray test is criticised as an outdated method of verifying age. FRANCE 24

France's top constitutional authority has validated bone testing to determine the age of young migrants, despite vocal criticism by lawyers and medical experts, who say the practice is outdated and imprecise.


The council acknowledged that the hand X-rays "may have a significant margin of error", but ruled that the law provided sufficient guarantees that would ensure the rights of each subject would be respected. 

Lawyer Isabelle Zribi, speaking outside the Counstitional Council, said there was simply too much uncertainty with the practice. 

“There are many causes of error on these tests,” said Zribi, adding that the margin of error in determining a person’s age could be from two to three years.

Unaccompanied minors who arrive in France have the right to stay and be educated until they are 18. The bone tests have been used to ensure that those who say they are under 18 years of age are telling the truth.

The bone test, an X-ray of a person’s hand and their left wrist, is extremely inaccurate, Zribi told the court, giving 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.

French court to decide on legality of bone test for migrants

During a court case regarding bone testing from 2016, Jacques Toubon, the head of the Defenders of Human Rights organisation, said that he was “resolutely opposed” to the tests that were “ill-adjusted, inefficient, and undignified”.

A French protection of children law passed in March 2016 prohibited the examination of puberty development, but an exam can be requested by a judge, after the minor in question agrees to the exam.

“But is it constitutional or not? A minor risks being treated as an adult, so it is his right to shelter and school that is in danger, and there are also repercussions regarding punitive measures to be free,” said Zribi in court.

The case was brought to court this month after a young Guinean refused to consent to a bone exam, which the judge in his case had used as proof that he was an adult.

France’s Constitutional Council is currently deliberating the case and is set to give judgment this week.




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