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The Australian – Age determination

Letter to the Editor – The Australian
6 October 2011

(under consideration)

Dear Sir/Madam,

Contrary to your story (Doctors slam asylum age test, p3, 6/10), the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) does not require wrist x-rays or genital examinations to determine a person’s age. Second, issues relating to prosecution of alleged people smuggling are matters for the Australian Federal Police. Third and finally, the "scathing indictment [of DIAC]" to which your reports refers, is a fiction.

The "indictment" is a fiction because these key facts, and the processes used by the department to determine age of its detainee clients, were explained to the reporter but did not appear in the story.

The issue of age determination is complex, with many clients who arrive as asylum seekers or crew on irregular maritime ventures presenting with no proof of identity and often not being able to provide a date or even a year of birth.

Establishing age in the immigration context is an important element in the process to establish a person’s identity and therefore an important part of ensuring the integrity of the department’s processing arrangements and the level of care provided to clients.

DIAC uses a number of processes to verify the identity of clients, including the use of biometrics. Where it isn't clear whether a client is over or under 18, the department seeks to establish this through focused interviewing to determine the most likely age of the client. However I repeat: the department does not request wrist x-rays.

On the rare occasion that an x-ray might be provided to DIAC by a client, it is never used as our sole method of determining an individual’s likely age. This was explained to both the medical groups which sent the letter on which your story was based, and to your reporter.

Yours sincerely,

Sandi Logan
National Communications Manager
Department of Immigration and Citizenship