Plans to use dental X-rays to assess the age of young asylum seekers have been condemned.
The UK Border Agency said it believes the X-rays could help to establish whether those who claimed to be minors were really adults.
Immigration officials have previously complained that adult asylum seekers claim to be under 18 to avoid removal. The agency announced a three-month programme seeking volunteers among asylum seekers to see if the X-rays could help determine their age.
The agency said it was trialling the scheme “to improve the age assessment process” to ensure that “both adults and children receive age-appropriate services”.
But John Wilkes, chief executive of the Scottish Refugee Council, urged the agency to halt the trial.
He said: “We are deeply concerned by the UK Government’s decision to use dental X-rays in the age assessment process for vulnerable young people arriving in the UK on their own, seeking safety. We urge them to stop this pilot as a matter of urgency.
“The bottom line is X-rays do not tell us the age of a child. They can only compare against norms, usually suggesting that there may be a two-year margin on either side of any given age. And, there is no comparative data for countries outside of Europe and America, making even this imprecise at best.” His comments come as it was claimed the agency may have embarked on the trial without formal approval of the NHS watchdog.