Refugee Council statement on unlawful detention of young asylum seekers - Refugee Council
January 26, 2007

Refugee Council statement on unlawful detention of young asylum seekers

In response to a concession announced today at the High Court by the Home Office in it which admits that the age dispute policy which permitted immigration officers to treat child asylum-seekers as adults and so subject them to detention was unlawful, Judith Dennis, Policy Advisor for the Refugee Council said today:

“We welcome this admission from the Home Office which should help to reduce the number of children who are treated as adults and locked up in detention centres. This practice has been happening because age disputed children can be detained as the result of initial decisions by immigration officers before child care professionals have had a chance to conduct even a brief assessment of how old they are.”

“Unfortunately, there still are children in adult detention facilities and we urge the Home Office to ensure that its new policy, which is more sensitive to child protection issues, is carried out in practice by all staff.”

We would also point out that this problem wouldn’t have come to light without evidence from independent bodies working in detention centres, in particular Refugee Council staff at the Oakington Centre in Cambridgeshire. This highlights the need for independent welfare teams in all detention centres.”


Notes to editor:

  1. The Home Office has admitted within the litigation:
    “The Secretary of State has concluded that his approach to detention in disputed age cases (prior to a change in policy in November 2005) did not strike the right balance between, on the one hand, the interests of firm and fair immigration control and, on the other hand, the importance of avoiding the detention of unaccompanied children”
  2. The Refugee Council based at Oakington Detention Centre provided detailed statistical information to the Home Office at inter-agency meetings over a period between 2003 – 2005 that indicated that a high percentage of persons that had been treated as adults were later assessed to be children. At some Immigration Service offices, the rate of error was 78% of those assessed as adults who were later accepted to be children by the Home Office.

See also:
BBC: Asylum seekers policy ‘unlawful’

Further information:

  • For further information, contact Bob Deffee on 020 7346 1213
  • For urgent out of hours enquiries, ring 0870 0555500 and ask for pager 865169
  • Further information is also available from the lawyers acting for the litigants in the case: Mark Scott or Hannah Chambers at Bhatt Murphy Solicitors on 020 7729 1115