Court confirms Government’s age policy is unlawful

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09 Mar 2017

The Government’s policy of judging the age of unaccompanied children seeking asylum based on their appearance has been ruled unlawful by the Court of Appeal.

The decision unanimously confirms a previous judgment by the High Court which ruled last June that someone’s age is a matter of ‘objective fact’ and cannot be based on physical appearance or demeanour.

The judgment had rendered as unlawful the Home Office’s policy of allowing officials to treat someone claiming to be a child as an adult and detain them if they believed the person appeared to be ‘significantly over the age of 18’.

However the Government refused to change its policy and instead has chosen to break the law since June last year. This has resulted in the safety of children being jeopardised and tax payers’ money being wasted.

Meanwhile, the Refugee Council continued to find distressed children locked up inside detention centres who had been wrongly assessed as adults. As the Government doesn’t produce statistics on the number of people who have been detained who claimed to be children, we worry that there are many more cases of children being wrongly detained as adults which are going unreported and unchallenged.

Responding to the ruling, Refugee Council Policy Manager Judith Dennis said: "This ruling sends an unequivocal message to the Government: allowing officials to randomly guess children’s ages and then throw them behind bars breaks the law.

"The Government must now recognise that when children’s lives are in the balance it’s simply not good enough for immigration officials to decide a child’s future on the basis of a cursory glance.

"Now is the time for the Home Office to prove it’s serious about children’s safety by changing its policy and leaving decisions on people’s ages to the experts."