Asylum-seekers staying in hotel pending age assessment was ‘unlawful’, says judge

The council said the trio were initially assessed by the Home Office as being at least 25 years old

Furvah Shah
Tuesday 26 October 2021 10:33
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<p>Brent council acted “unlawfully”, judge says. </p>

Brent council acted “unlawfully”, judge says.

A London council acted unlawfully when a child seeking asylum remained in a hotel pending assessments of their age, a High Court judge has concluded.

Mr Justice Poole ruled in favour of the child and two others seeking asylum, who were initially placed in a Brent hotel in the summer of 2020 by the Home Office.

A child would usually be placed into foster care or supported, independent living arrangements immediately.

The three people approached Brent council saying they were children, and remained in the hotel until their age was assessed.

Judge Poole said that the council acted “unlawfully” and “unreasonably” when deciding not to appropriately accommodate the three people amid their age assessments, under the 1989 Children Act.

Mr Poole said there was no evidence the child was “safeguarded against risk from adult strangers” in the hotel, or that there was protection of the child’s welfare or that of the two other people.

The council disputed the claims, with their lawyer’s saying the asylum-seekers had been provided with appropriate accommodation initially, and were thought to be “at least 25 years old”.

Brent council then ultimately determined that the child was aged 16, and the others were aged in their mid-twenties. They have since been given appropriate accommodation.

A spokesperson for the council also said “before anyone is temporarily placed in hotel accommodation, the Home Office completes an initial determination of age.”

The judge determined “it was... unreasonable for the defendant local authority to determine that it did not appear to it that these three claimants required accommodation, and the local authority was in breach of its duty under section 20 of the Children Act 1989 by declining to provide accommodation to these three claimants pending the outcome of their age assessments.”

“The defendant’s decisions in these three cases not to accommodate the claimants under section 20 of the Children Act 1989 were unlawful.”

A spokesperson for Brent Council said: “Following the court’s judgement we are urgently reviewing all of the cases of asylum seekers that the Home Office has placed in hotel accommodation in Brent who have subsequently approached Brent claiming they are children despite the Home Office’s assessments that they are adults. For those who are eligible for interim support, pending the completion of age assessments, we will provide suitable accommodation in line with our Children Act responsibilities.

“While it is welcome that local authorities now have clarity on our duties under the Children Act regarding the provision of interim support pending the completion of age assessments, the unplanned and uncoordinated way that the Home Office places asylum seekers in boroughs, such as Brent, is still in need of significant reform.

“Brent has always been a borough that is proud to welcome asylum seekers, including unaccompanied asylum seeking children. The number of asylum seeking children supported by Brent is at its highest level for more than four years and the proportion of asylum seeking children here is well above the agreed London threshold that is meant to ensure a more even distribution across London.”

This article was amended on 27 October 2021 after initial suggestion that Brent council first housed the asylum-seekers in a hotel. Brent council has since said that the Home Office housed and age-assessed these individuals.

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