Switzerland – Federal Administrative Tribunal rules in a case regarding evidentiary assessment in age determination procedures

Monday, March 4, 2019

On 4 March, the Federal Administrative Tribunal of Switzerland overturned a decision on an asylum request due to lack of proper reasoning and evidentiary assessment of the applicant’s age claim.

The applicant, an Eritrean national, applied for asylum as an unaccompanied minor in Switzerland and the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) ordered a bone test to assess his age. According to the results of the test, the applicant was found to be 18 years old. The applicant had stated that he did not possess an identity document but he had a baptism certificate and his student card in support of his argument. The authorities rejected his claim due to lack of identification, the test results and his physical appearance, and proceeded to issue a take charge request to Italy, as they had received a Eurodac hit.

After Italy refused the request, the SEM examined the applicant’s asylum claim and rejected the application noting the lack of identity documents and his late mention of draft evasion-related claims. On appeal, the Tribunal first cited the scientific sources documenting the margin of error and individual variability of age assessment medical examinations. Due to inevitable deviations after the age of 16, the bone analysis alone cannot prove the applicant’s age when it comes to the age of 18, the latter being the threshold of majority.

According to the consistent jurisprudence of the Committee of Appeals in asylum matters, the former competent body, this test cannot call into question the statements of an asylum applicant regarding his age unless the difference between the alleged age and the test result was more than three years. The results can be used to establish that the person is attempting to mislead the authorities regarding their identity but it could not be used to officially determine whether the applicant is a minor or not. The Tribunal found no reason to depart from this line and stated that the SEM is not entitled to conclude that the applicant is an adult without carrying out an overall assessment of the evidence, including the reasons for the absence of identity documents.

The Tribunal went on to examine, inter alia, whether the SEM had rightly considered the appellant to be of age before hearing his asylum case and whether the procedure was properly conducted. In this connection, it noted that the decision does not contain any reasoning with respect to the applicant’s declared age. Moreover, the conclusions of the officers conducting the hearing are not in conformity with the aforementioned jurisprudence. Conversely, their assessment was arbitrary in considering the bone tests decisive despite their admittedly low probative value.

The contested decision was annulled and the case was remitted back to the SEM for a second and properly motivated decision.

Based on an unofficial translation by the ELENA Weekly Legal Update.

This item was reproduced with the permission of ECRE from the ELENA Weekly Legal Update. The purpose of these updates is to inform asylum lawyers and legal organizations supporting asylum seekers and refugees of recent developments in the field of asylum law. Please note that the information provided is taken from publicly available information on the internet. Every reasonable effort is made to make the content accurate and up to date at the time each item is published but no responsibility for its accuracy and correctness, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed by ECRE.




Obligation to give reasons
Standard of proof