Children’s services departments should support and accommodate age disputed asylum seekers during the age assessment process

 

Today, the High Court has answered an important, previously undecided legal question: whether a local authority children’s services department is obliged to provide accommodation and support to a putative unaccompanied minor (i.e. an asylum seeking individual who claims to be a child and who is unaccompanied) pending a lawful age assessment: R (S, by his litigation friend Francesco Jeff) v. LB of Croydon, Equality and Human Rights Commission intervening [2017] EWHC 265 (Admin).

 

Mr Justice Lavender has ruled that the benefit of the doubt must be given to the age disputed young person, and that it is unlawful for the local authority to refuse to comply with its duties under ss. 17 and 20, Children Act 1989 pending the determination of the age assessment.  There was no cogent reason for departing from statutory guidance, Care for unaccompanied and trafficked children (July 2014) which states that, “where the person’s age is in doubt, they must be treated as a child unless, and until, a full age assessment shows the person to be an adult.”

  

The claim was brought by a Refugee Council client from Iraq, 'S', represented by Bhatia Best. S claims to be a child of 16, but his age has not yet been assessed by Croydon due to a number of factors, including concerns about his physical and mental health.  Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC acted for the intervener, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, instructed by Rosemary Lloyd.

 

More information about the case can be found in the Refugee Council’s press release, available here, and in Doughty Street Chambers’ Community Care Passle post on the ruling, available here.    

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