Priti Patel: Half of disputed cases over migrants' ages were 'adults presenting as children'

24 March 2021, 09:25 | Updated: 24 March 2021, 10:37

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Home Secretary Priti Patel has told LBC that in recent years more than half of disputed cases over migrants’ ages were adults “presenting as young children”.

Ms Patel will set out details of her New Plan for Immigration on Wednesday, under which people who arrive illegally will no longer have the same rights as those who arrive legally.

She has described the plan as "the biggest overhaul of the UK's asylum system in decades".

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Asked by Nick Ferrari about the possibility of more rigorous age assessment for those entering the country, she said: “We do know for a fact that when age has been disputed between 2016 and 2020, 54 per cent of the cases were discovered to be adults presenting as young children.

“Of course that puts a very serious safeguarding risk to us all so we want to consult on age assessment, we need to do things differently, we need to have the right kind of safeguarding protocols in place and of course these are fundamentally areas where we need to change the system.”

Ms Patel added: “We will consult on this through the command paper that I am publishing today.”

She said the UK is “one of the few countries” that does not use scientific age assessment “to assess and determine a person’s age when they enter our country”.

Describing her plan as “end to end reform”, she added: “We need to change our posture as a country and say no to illegal migration, no to the people smugglers and no to the criminal gangs.

“We will base that on the need of people who are fleeing persecution and not on arbitrary numbers which has happened in the past and that is a fundamental change that we need to bring in.”

Pressed on whether it would be possible to remove some illegal migrants within 24 hours, as has been proposed, she insisted they would be removed “in a swift and an efficient way”.

“We absolutely need to be firmer around the whole issue of illegal migration,” she said.

She said the Government would be “effectively introducing a one stop shop so that we cannot get repeat claims from individuals who are refusing to leave the country”.

She added: “This change has to happen quite frankly because we've not been able to remove people.

“As we’ve seen since 2013, the number of removals from the United Kingdom have gone down and down and down and that is mainly because our courts are now clogged up with all these various cases that keep coming forward.”