Age assessment still an issue for children seeking asylum
A recent report, ‘The Fact of Age’, issued by Maggie Atkinson, Children’s Commissioner for England has revealed problems still occur in age assessments of children seeking asylum. Decision-making often does not function smoothly, which could result in children being judged to be adults.
Maggie Atkinson said: “The consequences of getting the decision on a young person’s age wrong are serious. Children under 18, deemed by decision-makers to be older, can and do lose part of their childhood. Being judged over 18, they are not given the protections, nor the necessary safeguarding and other services, that they would be entitled to if assessed as children.”
The report makes recommendations to the Judiciary, Local Authorities and the UK Border Agency (UKBA). These include:
To the Judiciary:
- In all age dispute cases, whether heard in the Immigration and Asylum Chamber of the Upper Tribunal or by the Administrative Court, there should be a procedural presumption that the age disputed person is treated as a child throughout the appeal, including any preliminary or interim stages.
- Procedural adjustments should always be made to ensure that the Court setting and the conduct of proceedings are child-sensitive.
To Local Authorities
- Assessments should be conducted in line with the Framework for Assessment of Children in Need and their Families. This includes adhering to statutory timeframes to respond to referrals and conduct assessments, as well as good practice in inter agency collaborative working.
- Social workers should be adequately trained for the difficult task of conducting age assessments.
To UKBA & Local Authorities
- The UKBA and Local Authorities should work together on a joint protocol to ensure that disagreements about the age of a young person are resolved and no asylum seeker, child or adult, is left with no support as a result of the two agencies being unable to agree on the age of a young person.