Government Policy On Young Asylum Seekers Ruled Unlawful

23 May 2019, 18:00

The Home Office policy on young asylum seekers creates a real and avoidable risk of children being detained, a judge ruled.
The Home Office policy on young asylum seekers creates a real and avoidable risk of children being detained, a judge ruled. Picture: PA

Judges have ruled the Home Office policy on young asylum seekers is unlawful and "creates a real risk" of children being wrongly detained.

Home Office guidance states unaccompanied asylum seekers will not be accepted as being children if "their physical appearance and demeanour very strongly suggests that they are significantly over 18 years of age and there is little or no supporting evidence for their claimed age".

Lawyers for an Eritrean asylum seeker argued assessing someone's age based on their appearance or demeanour is "inherently unreliable" and therefore unlawful.

Giving judgment in London on Thursday, the Court of Appeal ruled by a two-to-one majority that the Home Office's current policy "creates a real and avoidable risk of children being unlawfully detained".

Lord Justice Underhill said there is a "very substantial" margin of error of between five and seven years for an age assessment carried out on the basis of physical appearance or demeanour.

The judge held that the Home Office's guidance "fails to convey just how doubtful an assessment based on physical appearance and demeanour alone is", which he said "gave rise to a real risk of children being (unlawfully) detained".

A Home Office spokesman said: "We are disappointed by the judgment and are considering its implications carefully."

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