Syrian teen wins UK court bid after Home Office treated him as adult

Decision not to determine asylum seeker's age was unlawful, judge says

The Royal Courts of Justice in London. AFP
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A judge has ruled that a council acted unlawfully when it failed to assess the age of a Syrian asylum seeker.

The unidentified teenager, who said he was a child when he arrived in Britain in 2021, had taken High Court action against Milton Keynes Council.

Deputy High Court Judge Susie Alegre was told Home Office officials had “recorded” the teenager as an “adult” and sent him to “emergency accommodation suitable for adults” in the Milton Keynes area.

The teenager, who has now turned 18 but said he was 17 when he arrived in Milton Keynes, complained that a council decision not to assess his age was unlawful — and Ms Alegre has ruled in his favour.

He said bosses had not ensured that they had “adequate information” to establish whether he was a child to whom they “owed a duty to provide services”.

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Ms Alegre said it was clear that the council had a duty to “make the necessary inquiries to arrive at an informed decision” about the teenager’s age.

She said the decision not to carry out an age assessment was unlawful.

The judge, who published a ruling on Monday after a recent High Court hearing in London, ordered authorities to assess the teenager’s age, or accept his “stated age”.

Lawyers representing the council said the claim was “academic” and should be rejected.

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They said the teenager was no longer a child and would therefore not be entitled to support and accommodation under legislation relating to children.

Lawyers representing the teenager said the claim was in the public interest because it could clarify the position for other local authorities.

Ms Alegre, who has not identified the teenager in her written ruling, decided that his claim was not academic.

Updated: January 30, 2023, 9:52 PM