Young people arrive in the UK, often without documentation. Some have never had any form of ID, birth certificate or similar document in their country of birth, some were unable to bring it as a result of having to flee their home suddenly fearing for their safety. Unlike in the UK where we celebrate the birthdays routinely, this does not happen in all countries with little significance being paid to dates of birth or sometimes even age.
One young person confused by the process of having his age challenged told us:
“I am here fleeing for my life and they are worried about a date which meant nothing in Afghanistan.”
These young people arrive in the UK to seek sanctuary however for many of those supported by GMIAU when they arrive they have their age disputed.
Some of the young people who contact us have been age assessed as an adult and dispersed in adult asylum accommodation in the North West. When we support them in challenging the decision on their age we are often faced with a conflict as to which local authority is most appropriate to do the re-assessment – the original local authority or the local authority where they now live.
Struck by the ambiguity over what happens in these circumstances, and the absence of young people’s voices in decision-making, we have used funding from the Strategic Legal Fund to carry out research on the position in guidance, case law and practice. We are now exploring policy, strategic litigation and best practice tools to push for clarity.