Home Office declines to comment on whether it will probe claims Calais Jungle child refugee is 22

Haris Stanikzai arrived in England under the landmark Dubs amendment last week claiming to be aged 16 

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The Home Office has declined to comment on whether it will investigate claims that one of the refugee children brought to the UK from the Calais Jungle camp is over 18 years old. 

Questions have been raised about the age of Haris Stanikzai, who arrived in England under the landmark Dubs amendment last week claiming to be aged 16, following an investigation by The Sunday Times.

The newspaper said it had found several online profiles for the Afghan refugee, including a dating profile suggesting he is aged 22 and another claiming he was previously enrolled at a university in Kabul.

Haris was transferred to London from Calais on 17 October with at least four other people, under an initiative allowing child refugees with relatives already in Britain to enter the UK. The Home Office said the group consisted of boys aged 14 to 17.

He does not hold a passport or birth certificate and was taken to live with his uncle Jan Ghazi in south London. The Home Office issued Haris with a date of birth of 1 January 1999, making him 17.

The Sunday Times said two university officials had separately confirmed that Haris had enrolled on a bachelor’s degree in business administration (BBA) at Jahan University about three and a half years ago. One of the officials said he was “young” and “under-18” when he started the BBA course. 

Mr Ghazi said there had been a “big misunderstanding” about his nephew’s academic history and he was certain he was not registered at the university.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We do not routinely comment on individual cases.”

It added that all individuals referred to the UK authorities by the France terre d'asile are interviewed by French and UK officials.

The spokesperson said that where credible and clear documentary evidence of age is not available, criteria including physical appearance and demeanour are used as part of the interview process to assess age. 

If somebody is determined to be a minor but is not able to provide documentary evidence of a specific date of birth, they are assigned a year of birth based on their age.

Where further information about an individual’s age comes to light it will be thoroughly investigated, the Home Office said. If an individual is subsequently found to be over 18, they will be processed through the adult system.

The UK has received 274 refugees according to French officials; however, the French President has urged British authorities to “do their part” to settle 1,500 migrant children left in Calais.

Young refugee reunited with his brother after months in Calais Jungle

François Hollande said the minors, most of whom are living in shipping containers in the remains of the Jungle, would be transferred “very quickly’ to other centres.

His comments come two days after Home Secretary Amber Rudd reminded French authorities of their duty to “properly protect” children, amid reports that youngsters were forced to sleep rough around the smouldering remains of the camp.

French officials declared the clearance of the Jungle camp complete on Wednesday, with 5,596 people evacuated from the site since the operation began on Monday. But humanitarian organisations and volunteers on the ground have said refugees, including children, are still sleeping on the site of the camp.