UK High Court Rules Against Home Office’s Age-Assessment Process of Young Illegal Immigrants

By Lily Zhou
Lily Zhou
Lily Zhou
Lily Zhou is an Irish-based reporter focusing on UK news. Lily first joined the Chinese edition of The Epoch Times before turning her focus on the UK in 2020.
January 20, 2022Updated: January 20, 2022

Two young people have won a High Court challenge on Wednesday against the UK’s Home Secretary Priti Patel over the way their ages were assessed upon their illegal entry in England.

The pair, whose names were not disclosed, said they were minors at the times of their arrivals, but they were quickly judged by social workers to be adults at a holding facility in Dover, Kent.

The two youth males said the assessments were “short” and the way their ages were gauged was unfair.

Ruling on the case, Mr. Justice Henshaw said the assessments were “not lawful” in “particular respects.”

A charity boss welcomed the court decision, while the Home Office is “disappointed” by the judgment.

One of the claimants, from Kuwait, said he was born in June 2004 when he arrived in Kent on a lorry in December 2020. It’s unclear which European countries he passed through before arriving in England.

His age was judged to be 20 after a 42-minute assessment.

According to The Guardian, the youth belongs to the “Bidoon” group—a stateless Arab minority in Kuwait.

A profile published by Minority Rights Group International and quoted in the Home Office’s policy on the group (pdf) said the Kuwaiti government categorizes Bidoons as “‘illegal residents,’ despite the fact that many have no real connections to any country other than Kuwait.”

The other claimant, an Iranian national, who tried to travel to the UK in a rubber dinghy this month, said he was born in May 2003 after he was rescued at sea.

He was judged to be 21 after an assessment lasting an hour.

Responding to the judgment, Enver Solomon, the chief executive of the Refugee Council—a charity involved in the case—said the charity is “relieved that the practice of hasty decisions is no longer allowed to continue.”

“Distinguishing between adults and children is not something that can be done quickly; it takes time and expertise to make the right decision,” he added.

Solomon hit out at the age-assessing process, saying it’s “with neither safeguards nor oversight,” and “relying on little more than luck to ensure that someone identifies them as being wrongly deemed adult and helps them access the care they are entitled to.”

The Home Office said the department is “disappointed by the court’s decision.”

“The government is committed to protecting children and the vulnerable but we cannot allow asylum-seeking adults claim to be children,” a spokesperson said, adding it “presents a serious safeguarding risk.”

“Our Nationality and Borders Bill seeks to improve the challenging age assessment process and will widen the evidence base for social workers to consider when making assessments and lead to better-informed decisions,” the statement reads.

The disputed age-assessing process and the use of social workers in the process has ended before Wednesday’s ruling, when the Home Office updated its guidance (pdf) on Jan. 14 in response to another court ruling in July 2021.

In 2021, around 28,400 people have entered the UK by the clandestine crossing of the English Channel, triple the number for 2020.

By Nov. 18, a total of five small boat arrivals had been sent back to Europe during 2021.

PA contributed to this report.