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Fast-track age assessments of newly arrived asylum seekers were unlawful

Fast-track age assessments of newly arrived asylum seekers were unlawful

Fast-track age assessments for newly arrived asylum seekers were unlawful, the High Court has found. The case is R (MA & Anor) v Coventry City Council & Anor [2022] EWHC 98 (Admin). Doughty Street Chambers has a detailed summary and Diane Taylor has written it up for the Guardian as well.

The challenge was to a Home Office policy — now abandoned — on procedures for deciding whether people freshly arrived across the Channel were over or under 18. The department hired its own social workers to carry out quick-fire age assessments — rather than the carefully calibrated Merton” process — where the person claimed to be a child but there was “reason to doubt the claimant’s age”.

Mr Justice Henshaw said there was “no objection in principle” to the Home Office employing its own social workers. But assessments of new arrivals who aren’t very obviously over 18 need to include the well-established Merton safeguards:

… in my view it is inconsistent with the principles set out in the case law, including the need to conduct a fair and careful assessment, to seek to assess age in a non-obvious case… in circumstances where an individual who has just arrived at the UK and been detained (i) does not have the support of an appropriate adult and (ii) is not given a ‘minded to’ opportunity.

As a result, the withdrawn guidance, the individual assessments challenged and any lengthening of detention to carry them out were all unlawful. Enver Solomon of the Refugee Council called the decision a “big strategic legal victory”.

CJ McKinney is Free Movement's editor. He's here to make sure that the website is on top of everything that happens in the world of immigration law, whether by writing articles, commissioning them out or considering pitches. CJ is an adviser on legal and policy matters to the Migration Observatory at Oxford University, and keeps up with the wider legal world as a contributor to Legal Cheek. Twitter: @mckinneytweets.

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