Mass Migration

Hundreds Wrongly Detained in Adult Settings, Breaching International Law Concerns

Main image to the post Hundreds Wrongly Detained in Adult Settings, Breaching International Law Concerns

UN raises concerns

The United Nations has expressed serious concerns about the UK's treatment of child asylum seekers, with experts warning that the country is at risk of breaching international law.

A report by the Refugee Council and other charities found that at least 1,300 child refugees who arrived alone in the UK were wrongly identified as adults by border officials in the 18 months from January 2022. Nearly 500 of these children were placed in adult detention or unsupervised accommodation.

The situation has been described as "a safeguarding crisis on an unprecedented scale," with children being criminalised under new migration laws and held in adult prisons after the Home Office wrongly assessed their ages.

Five UN special rapporteurs have intervened to highlight their concerns, warning that the Home Office's age assessment procedures appear to allow for potential breaches of international law. Detaining children in adult settings, including at asylum accommodation, is prohibited under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The UN experts urged the previous UK government to take "all necessary interim measures" to halt the alleged violations and prevent their re-occurrence.

In its response, the Home Office claimed it was unable to confirm the statistics uncovered by the charities, as they "cannot be usefully compared" to the department's own data. However, the charities' figures relate to hundreds of children who were given only minimal age assessments at the border and then detained or housed in adult settings.

Campaigners argue that the risk of placing a child in adult detention or accommodation is significantly greater than that of placing a young adult in a children's care setting. They also warn that the government's proposed use of "scientific" age assessment methods, such as MRI and X-ray scanners, could amount to obtaining consent under duress.

The Children's Commissioner has expressed deep concern about both the introduction of these age assessment methods and the approach of treating children who refuse to consent to these methods as adults.

The new home secretary, Yvette Cooper, will now decide on the future of current Home Office policies. The Refugee Council has called for a reset of Home Office culture and a focus on child welfare in policy-making, to ensure that every refugee child who comes to the UK is kept safe from harm.

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May 21, 2023 | 05:09