Skip to main content

David Davies says child refugees don't look their age. Well, he doesn't look his either

We test out the facial recognition app used to claim that child refugees arriving to the UK from Calais are really 39
Screen grab from used on UK MP David Davies

After the Daily Mail used a facial age-assessment app to approximate the age of child refugees, Middle East Eye put the site to the test to check its accuracy. 

A Daily Mail article this week suggested that child refugees who arrived in the UK on Monday were actually adults after using facial recognition website to back up its findings. 

It stated that one refugee "was rated by a racial recognition program as having the features of a 39-year old".

The speculation comes after 14 child refugees arrived in the UK on Monday as part of efforts by the British government to take in unaccompanied children from Calais before the 'Jungle' camp is destroyed.

Conservative MP David Davies suggested "dental checks" should be used to test their real age - and right-wing newspapers published unpixellated photographs of the refugees saying they looked much older than 18, claiming to have tested them using the "facial recognition program".

A spokesperson for Microsoft has since come out to say that was intended to be used as a "fun app".

So, we went and photographed London students to put the website to the test and find out just how accurate the software is.

Our findings? 100 percent inaccurate...

Name: Anna
Age: 23
Age on 38
Name: Faran
Age: 19
Age on 34
Name: Fatima
Age: 21
Age on 29
Name: Omari
Age: 23
Age on 28

'Fun app'

Microsoft has since come out and said that the software was designed to be used as a "fun app," and was "not intended to be used as a definitive assessment of age".

A Microsoft spokesperson said: " was designed to be an example of how developers could build a fun app using modern development practices. It is not intended to be used as a definitive assessment of age."

Our findings suggest why that might be...

Name: Marwa
Age: 25
Age on 30
Name: Harry
Age: 22
Age on 36


'Sorry if we didn't quite get it right' apologises for any inaccuracies under photos, saying "Sorry if we didn't quite get it right - we are still improving this feature."

Name: Ali
Age: 22
Age on 31
British MP David Davies was one of the first to articulate his suspicions on social media before then going on to suggest "dental checks" for these children in order to confirm their age. 

So what were the results when we used it on him? 

Name: David 
Age: 46
Age on 57

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.