Home Office vows not to send child asylum seekers to Rwanda

Lords challenged the government over its assessment process

A young girl is taken in to Dover, Kent, from a small boat in the English Channel on July 18. PA
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The Home Office has told Parliament that no unaccompanied asylum-seeking child will be sent to Rwanda.

After Lords raised concerns about the age-assessment process, Baroness Williams of Trafford assured the House that the government would not remove any children to the East African nation.

Peers challenged the government on claims that this policy was already being undermined because children were being wrongly assessed as adults.

“Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children are not suitable for third country inadmissibility action and as such are not eligible for relocation to Rwanda," said Lady Trafford.

“The approach to unaccompanied asylum-seeking children is also extended to any individual whose age has been disputed, but where that age dispute is ongoing.”

Labour peer Baroness Lister of Burtersett urged the government to take note of concerns raised by the Refugee and Migrant Children’s Consortium of more than 60 organisations.

She also quoted a report from the chief inspector of borders and immigration which said: “The treatment of those claiming to be children was not child-centred.

“The age-assessment process was perfunctory and engagement with the young people was minimal.”

She said that in the first quarter of this year, of the 255 age disputes, half concluded that the person was a child.

The current assessment process relies on physical appearance and demeanour, which Lady Lister described as “unreliable”.

Plans to employ more “scientific” methods were rejected by the upper chamber as taking the issue “backwards not forwards", she said.

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Independent cross-bencher Baroness Neuberger, whose mother was a German-Jewish refugee who fled the Nazis, said it was a “dangerous game to play” to say you can assess age “absolutely scientifically”.

Lady Lister warned the minister that “a gap between theory and practice” has been identified and urged the government to consider the recommendations from the consortium.

Lady Neuberger claimed “there have been a number of cases” where children whose age is doubted have been issued with a notice of intent for removal to Rwanda.

Updated: July 21, 2022, 9:43 PM