The Home Office is allegedly trying to deport unaccompanied minors to Rwanda.
Charities claim there’s a “worrying pattern” of the government classing asylum seekers younger than 18 as adults.
The refugee charity Care4Calais is currently engaged in an age dispute with the Home Office over two teenage boys. The Home Office has issued the boys notices of removal.
The boys say they’re 16. But the Home Office – after undertaking age assessments – claim they’re 23 and 26 respectively.
Our lawyers will fight for that. One 16 year old 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.
— Care4Calais (@Care4Calais) June 4, 2022
Children classed as adults
In a statement, charity Care4Calais pledged to use its lawyers to challenge the notices. It said:
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”.
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.
Disregard for human rights and rule of law
The PA news agency has asked the Home Office for comment over the charities’ remarks.
The Home Office claims it won’t remove any person from the UK if it’s “unsafe or inappropriate” to do so. And it denied that unaccompanied minors will be among those sent to Rwanda as part of the government’s potentially illegal scheme to process migrants offshore.
Earlier this week, Home Secretary Priti Patel said she’s “absolutely determined” that the UK will send migrants to Rwanda. That’s despite the prospect of legal challenges from human rights groups.
The Home Office has begun formally notifying migrants of their removal to Rwanda. And the first deportation flight is expected to depart on 14 June.
The government described the move as the “final administrative step” in its partnership with the east African nation. It will see the government permanently shipping off people it deems to have entered the UK ‘illegally’.
Court action from human rights groups could hold up removals. But Patel said she is “resolute” about delivering the scheme “for the British public”. She also claims that “it’s exactly what the British people want.”
Patel described the deportation policy as a “the first of its kind”. However, a similar policy in Australia has seen many human rights abuses and billions in costs.
The policy will see asylum seekers deemed to have entered the UK by illegal means sent to Rwanda. Their asylum claims will be processed for residence in Rwanda, not the UK. If successful, they will be granted asylum or given refugee status in the country.
Those with failed bids will face deportation to the home countries from which they fled.
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