An asylum seeker charged with murder, who claimed to be a child when he arrived in the U.K. three years ago, has been determined to be 21 following an age determination hearing, meaning he was actually an adult when claiming asylum and should have been treated as such by authorities.
Lawangeen Abdulrahimzai arrived in the U.K. as an asylum seeker from Afghanistan in December 2019, claiming he was 14 years old.
He is awaiting trial at Winchester Crown Court after being charged with the murder of 21-year-old Thomas Roberts outside a Subway sandwich shop in Bournemouth.
Roberts was stabbed to death on the coastal town’s nightclub strip in the early hours of March 12, 2022, with media and police reporting in the immediacy of the attack that a 16-year-old schoolboy had been arrested. The victim was taken to hospital where he died from his injuries.
The suspect has been held in custody on remand at a young offender’s institute since his arrest after insisting to authorities that he is only 16.
However, after checks were made by the court and following an age determination hearing, it was ruled that Abdulrahimzai is an adult born in October 2001, meaning he was 20 at the time of the offense and an 18-year-old adult upon his entry to the United Kingdom.
Under the present asylum rules, there are certain incentives for adult asylum seekers to be treated as children, with minors benefiting in a number of ways with regards to the housing and support they can receive, the treatment and prioritization of their asylum claim by authorities, and the arrangements that can be made to secure their removal from the U.K. should they not be successful in establishing a lawful basis for staying in the country.
As a result of the age determination, Abdulrahimzai will be moved from Feltham Young Offender Institution to an adult prison, the presiding judge, Justice Cutts, ruled at the hearing.
“The defendant, Lawangeen Abdulrahimzai, is charged with an offense of murder,” the judge said.
“There is no dispute that since 2019 he has been an asylum seeker from Afghanistan. It has been clear that since his arrest and before that an age assessment was required for him, not just for criminal proceedings but also for the local authority.
“The difference between the age he was given by his uncle and the age given by the age assessment has been somewhat substantial,” she added.
Defending counsel insisted his client “does not know what age he is” but “does acknowledge that he is an adult.”