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Screen refugees for age? In your dreams

October 21, 2016

My bleeding heart liberal friends and I had great fun ripping the piss out of a Daily Mail article today. It was terribly concerned about immigrants sneaking their way into Britain masquerading as kids, and set about analysing the age of these interlopers.

Unfortunately for them, they used the publicly accessible software How Old .net, which turned out to be quite shit, as you can see above. Just as with other age guessing programs (usually used for idle entertainment on social media),  it turns out that turning your head slightly can age you by 38 years.

We’ll have to make sure the immigrants are exactly the right distance away and facing straight into the camera, with the right lighting. Perhaps a police mug shot would do? Take off your glasses and shave off your facial hair, say the immigrants to one another, in the long and public-money-wasting queue; they each add ten to twenty years. Face painting, on the other hand, can take off a whopping 19 years.

You’ll be happy to know that, given the right approach, a nine-year-old boy looks like a 23-year-old woman, so even if the immigrants do have that minor technicality of actually being school age in their favour, we’ll still ‘ave them out of Our Schools in no time.


This is the second time in two days I’ve stumbled across hysterical concerns that immigrants might be infiltrating our precious country by pretending to be children. The first was a stunningly bad article in Kent Online about 20-year-old immigrants defiling our schools by pretending to be high school age.

Despite being instructed to apologise for several breaches of UK journalistic quality by the Independent Press Standards Commission – most tellingly for accuracy – this piece was still bandied about my some worried individuals.

They seemed to feel that the very thought that immigrants might be able to lie their way into education to which they have – it is perceived – no right, was enough for outcry. Never mind that the entire panic was based on nought but the off-hand comments of a few teachers. Possibly one teacher, who phoned up the local news desk on a slow day and said, “’Ere, some of these boys look about 20.” A matter of public interest, indeed.

kent online.png

Not a photo of pupils at the Kent school; a stock photo of some random people in Calais.

Worse, the instant assumption by respondents to the above article was that, if an adult wants to get into a school, he must be a paedophile. Whoa, whoa, whoa. Let’s take a step back. No wonder we’ve got a deficit of male primary school teachers, with that kind of attitude floating around.

For fear of developing acute depression, I won’t speculate too heavily on the extent to which one’s race, religion, nationality and immigration status factor into the assumption that one must be up to all sorts of evil with kiddiewinks.

I think the logical assumption is that if refugees are lying their way into British schools, it’s probably to learn. If only your average British adult wanted to educate themselves so earnestly.

Probably, the refugees’ home education has been right royally messed up by the kerfuffle going on in their homeland, so I have some sympathy with a cheeky white lie into our free, intact, functioning education system.

And we’re probably not talking about 30-year-olds bunged in with 11-year-olds. Your average local authority isn’t quite that stupid. We’re looking at 18-year-olds in classes with 15-year-olds.

To be fair, they’re probably far enough behind that it is an appropriate level for them; only in this country do we decide that when people are sorted by level rather than by age, all the younger kids are instantly in mortal danger. In other parts of the world, that’s standard practice.

Assuming that this whole thing isn’t not a load of old arse in the first place (it has been pointed out that teenagers tend to look older than they are sometimes, that’s why we have carding), I can’t see what the moral panic is about people-who-aren’t-quite-children being in school.

If we’re going to have people move into this country, I’d much sooner they were educated. Society doesn’t improve by shoulder-barging people out of the education system because they are, or might be, too old for it.

There is no sure-fire way to screen for age – the best you can do is to discriminate against people who merely look older. People who’ve come from further afield often don’t have the correct documentation; they can’t prove their age, sometimes not their nationality. Sometimes, that’s purposeful.

The problem is, if you start saying that no one who can’t prove their age can go to school, you don’t just cut out immigrants, if that is your intention. British parents fail to register children, and they lose birth certificates and other identification 

When this happens, we don’t say that the child can’t go to school. That wouldn’t just be unfair, it would be stupid. We’d shoot ourselves in the foot as a society, contributing to the number of uneducated people in the world by forcing people out of education because of lapse of judgement or memory made by someone else when they were an infant.

Of course, if you don’t like helping refugees, you don’t care about that. It’s just important that immigrant adults don’t end up sitting next to Our Children in biology class, else they might influence them into extreme views, like thinking it’s not a crime to want to move to a country that isn’t subject to constant artillery fire.

In that case, don’t worry about age – screen for brownness, and funny accents. That ought to do the job.


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