More than 3,500 adults posed as children between 2016 and 2022 in order to cheat the UK asylum system, Government figures have revealed. According to Lord Murray of Blidworth, Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Home Office, there were 7,357 asylum cases where age was disputed and subsequently resolved between 2016 and September 2022. Of those, half (3,696 people) were found to be adults posing as children.
Addressing the House of Lords today, Lord Murray said there is “clear evidence that many people claim to be a minor when they are not”.
He said: “There are clear safeguarding issues which arise when a child is inadvertently accepted as an adult.
“Equally, when an adult is wrongly accepted as a child and placed in accommodation with younger children, to whom they could present a risk.”
He added: “Sadly, experience suggests that a large number of people have said that they are minors in order to take advantage of the perhaps more beneficial regime.
“It’s very important for the reasons I have given that those people are weeded out by as fair a system as we can determine.”
However, the Home Office has also been accused of altering the dates of birth of children to classify them as adults.
Renae Mann, executive director of services at the Refugee Council, said: “Our staff are seeing many young people aged 15, 16 and 17 who have been wrongly treated as adults by Home Office staff.
“It is only once we get involved that these children are recognised as such and are taken into local authority care.”
She added: “This is a misuse of power by the Government. These children are very vulnerable and have been through so much already.”
But a Home Office spokesperson said: “Age assessments are challenging but vital to identifying genuine asylum-seeking children and stop abuse of the system.
“We are taking a holistic approach to prevent adults claiming to be children, or children being wrongly treated as adults – both present serious safeguarding risks to children.
“Our reforms through the nationality and borders act aim to make assessments more consistent and robust by using scientific measures, and creating a new national age assessment board.
“If there is doubt whether a claimant is an adult or child, they will be referred for a local authority assessment and will be treated as a child until a decision on their age is made.”
Earlier this month, the Government migrations figures revealed that net migration rose to 504,000 in the year to June 2022.
The latest figures are an increase from pre-Brexit immigration levels, with most of the migrants coming from non-EU countries.
Net migration for the year ending June 2015 – the year before the UK voted to leave the EU – was 336,000.
Last month, Home Secretary Suella Braverman told MPs: “We have failed to control our borders. That’s why I and the Prime Minister are absolutely determined to fix this problem.”
The statistics published also show that there are still 9,242 Afghan refugees in hotels – 15 months after the evacuation.