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Austria Alarmed Over Spike In Gray-Haired Migrants Claiming To Be Children

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Jacob Bojesson Foreign Correspondent
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Hundreds of adults migrating to Austria have been caught lying about their age to claim greater benefits.

Austrian authorities are alarmed about the new trend after the number of migrants lying about their age skyrocketed in 2015. An Austrian policeman said some migrants with gray hair and beards are able to register as 17-year-olds with no difficulty.

“It is completely absurd. We have men turning up here with full beards and grey hair claiming to be children,” the official said, according to Austrian newspaper Kronen Zeitung.

Under Austrian immigration law, authorities have to process undocumented migrants as minors if they claim to be 17 years old or younger. Even in cases where it appears obvious the migrant is much older than he claims, the responsibility to prove the actual age lies on government and not the migrant.

“If there is a suggestion that a person claiming to be a child is not the age they claim, then a test is organized,” a spokesman for Interior Minister Karl-Heinz Grundboek told Austrian newspaper Kurier. “That means a medical examination and a professional report by a qualified expert.”

The Austrian government has spent more than $2 million on these tests. The results show that more and more migrants are taking advantage of the systems, as the number of fake children spiked in 2015.

Almost half of of the migrants tested in 2015 — 951 out of 2,200 — turned out to be adults. In 2014, just one adult was found among 178 tests.

More than 8,000 children applied for asylum in 2015. The vast majority of fake minors come from Afghanistan.

Austria has previously deported hundreds of migrants lying about their nationalities to boost their chances of receiving asylum. Migrants from Syria and Iraq typically have preference over people from North African countries.

“We assume that some are trying to take advantage of the situation, knowing very well that they have little chance of being granted asylum in Austria and Germany,” a spokesman for the Austrian police said in December, 2015, according to The Independent.

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