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Home Office accused of attempting to deport unaccompanied minors to Rwanda

UK charities say there is a ‘worrying pattern’ of children being categorised as adults by the Government’s flawed age-assessment system.

Alana Calvert
Sunday 05 June 2022 08:57 BST
The Home Office has been accused of attempting to deport unaccompanied minors to Rwanda (Gareth Fuller/PA)
The Home Office has been accused of attempting to deport unaccompanied minors to Rwanda (Gareth Fuller/PA) (PA Wire)

The Home Office has been accused of attempting to deport unaccompanied minors to Rwanda.

Charities claim there is a “worrying pattern” of asylum seekers who are under the age of 18 being classed as adults by the Government.

The refugee charity Care4Calais is currently engaged in an age dispute with the Home Office over two teenage boys who have been issued with notices of removal.

While the boys say they are 16, the Home Office – after undertaking age assessments – claim they are 23 and 26 respectively.

“It is essential that proper age assessments are done before any deportation takes place,” the charity said in a statement, pledging to use its lawyers to challenge the notices.

“One (of the) 16-year-old (boys) saw his brother killed in front of him when his village was raided in Sudan. He escaped and went back later to find the whole village gone.”

Anti-trafficking charity Love146 UK similarly expressed alarm over the Government’s age assessment system for asylum seekers.

Campaigns manager Daniel Sohege told The Guardian the charity is seeing children “as young as 14 being incorrectly age-assessed as 23”.

He added: “The number of children we have seen who have just had 1999 put down as their date of birth when they are clearly under 18 is highly concerning, and putting young people at risk.”

Lauren Starkey, a social worker for the charity, told the newspaper: “It is not within the realm of possibility that anyone, especially someone trained in child protection, could look at the children we have seen and believe they are in their 20s.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Our world-leading partnership with Rwanda is a key part of our strategy to overhaul the broken asylum system and break the evil people smugglers’ business model.

“No one will be sent to Rwanda if it is not safe to do so. Adults passing themselves off as children is a serious safeguarding risk and in almost two thirds of disputed cases from March 2021-22, the person was found to be over 18.

“Where a person has no credible evidence of their age, a thorough age assessment process will be followed. They will be treated as though they are a child until a decision on their age has been made.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel said she is ‘determined’ the UK will send migrants to Rwanda (James Manning/PA) (PA Wire)

Earlier this week, Home Secretary Priti Patel said she is “absolutely determined” that the UK will send migrants to Rwanda despite the prospect of legal challenges being mounted by human rights groups.

The Home Office has begun formally notifying migrants of their removal to Rwanda, with the first deportation flight expected to depart on June 14.

The Government described the move as the “final administrative step” in its partnership with the east African nation, whereby people who are deemed to have entered the UK illegally will be encouraged to rebuild their lives thousands of miles away.

Nearly 10,000 migrants have arrived in the UK so far this year after crossing the English Channel in small boats, Government figures show (Gareth Fuller/PA) (PA Wire)

Despite the prospect of the removals being held up by court action from human rights groups, Ms Patel said she is “resolute” about delivering the scheme “for the British public”.

She added: “It is unprecedented. It’s the first of its kind and I can tell you something else – it’s exactly what the British people want.”

Described by Ms Patel as a “world-first” agreement when it was announced last month, the deportation policy will see asylum seekers deemed to have entered the UK by illegal means sent to Rwanda, where their claims will be processed.

If successful, they will be granted asylum or given refugee status in the country.

Those with failed bids will be offered the chance to apply for visas under other immigration routes if they wish to remain in Rwanda, but could still face deportation.

This article was amended on 6 June 2022 to add the comment from the Home Office.

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