More than 2,000 adult asylum seekers arriving in the UK have lied about their age to be processed less harshly in the system as children.
Of the 3,755 ‘children’ investigated over their age by UK immigration since 2015 more than half were found to have been lying.
Latest Home Office figures reveal that 2,203 cases resulted in the migrant’s age being verified as over 18, which can mean they are processed more harshly by the system.
Asylum seekers who are genuine child victims of war, terror and humanitarian disasters, will have the right to financial help with accommodation up until they are 25.
Those who are over 18 will still receive state funding if their application for asylum is successful, however the majority do not have the right to work in the UK meaning they must live off the small cash support of £37.75 per person, per week – £5.39 a day.
If a refugee does not have a birth certificate or other travel documents, a Home Office screening officer must decide whether or not they are a child based on their ‘physical appearance and demeanour’.
Unless the person appears ‘significantly’ over 18, they should be ‘afforded the benefit of the doubt and treated as children’ until they are age-assessed by local council social workers, official rules state.
This is to avoid the risk of a child migrant accidentally being placed in adult accommodation or detention.
But on some occasions it meant adults were treated as children, potentially posing a risk to school pupils, foster families or children in care.
A Home Office spokesperson said: ‘We are fixing our broken asylum system to make it firm and fair. We will seek to stop abuse of the system while ensuring it is compassionate towards those who need our help, welcoming people through safe and legal routes.’
Last month a school pupil who was claimed by parents of other pupils to ‘look 40 years old’ was placed into a school by local authorities in Coventry.
The school pupil who is said to have recently moved to Britain from West Africa was claimed by parents to have a receding hairline.
Photographs emerged in October purporting to show the asylum seeker student, following concerns raised by his fellow pupils after he joined their school in Coventry.
The city council had to write to parents to reassure them about the situation – and the school said it has been able to verify the pupil’s age, but did not explain how.
Home Office statistics show Afghanistan, Eritrea, and Sudan had the most adult asylum seekers claiming to be children in 2020.