UK to switch up guidance on identifying the age of migrants, after fake child asylum applications triple

People thought to be migrants who made the crossing from France wait as they are disembarked after being picked up in the Channel by a British border force vessel, in Dover, south east England, Friday, Sept. 10, 2021. Thousands of migrants have landed on beaches in southeast England in recent days amid calm, summery weather, with 785 arriving on Monday alone, according to Britain's Home Office. More than 12,000 have made the crossing this year, according to Britain's Press Association news agency. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
By Thomas Brooke
4 Min Read

U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel is set to issue new guidance to immigration officials on Friday in a bid to reduce the number of illegal adult migrants incorrectly being categorized as children, it has emerged.

Authorities will soon be given license to document a migrant whose age cannot be verified as an adult if they appear to be over the age of 18.

In the current guidance issued to immigration centers, an undocumented migrant who claims to be a minor will be treated as such unless their appearance “very strongly suggests that they are 25 years of age or over,” a policy that has seen the number of fake child asylum applications triple in recent years.

Child asylum cases are fast-tracked and more likely to succeed than if a migrant is being considered as an adult, with the likelihood of deportation or detention drastically reduced even if their asylum claim is unsuccessful.

The Home Office had previously been prevented from changing its guidance following a Court of Appeal ruling against the department which held that reducing the age from 25 to 18 could result in more genuine minors being incorrectly categorized as adults.

That judgment however was overturned on appeal to the U.K. Supreme Court back in August of last year, giving Patel’s department the green light to implement the changes.

The United Kingdom saw a record number of migrants arrive via the English Channel last year, with a total of 28,395 newcomers landing on the south-east coast of England, triple the figure recorded for 2020.

Home Office data unsurprisingly showed an upturn in cases last year in which the age of a migrant was disputed. In the year to September 2021, there were 1,696 cases where asylum applicants disagreed with the conclusions of immigration officials and claimed to be a minor. Of those, 1,118 — 66 percent — were found to be 18 or older, the Telegraph newspaper revealed.

The importance in correctly categorizing migrants as either a minor or an adult should not be understated. As Kevin Foster, a government minister on immigration highlighted: “Single adults who falsely claim to be children in order to seek asylum go on to access children’s services, putting the welfare of children and young adults in school and care at risk.”

Terror attacks have also been carried out in the United Kingdom by jihadists claiming to be minors — a case in point being Ahmed Hassan, the Parsons Green bomber who arrived in Britain in October 2015 in the back of a lorry, claiming to be 16 years old. He went on to detonate a nail bomb on a busy tube train in west London in 2017, injuring 23 people.

In addition to the change in guidance, the Home Secretary has announced procedural changes to identifying the correct age of newcomers who refuse to provide evidence of their age. Such new methods being discussed include but are not limited to X-ray examinations and other types of radiology, as well as CT and MRI scans.

“The practice of single grown adult men masquerading as children claiming asylum is an appalling abuse of our system, which we will end,” Patel confirmed.

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