The Home Office has insisted ‘nobody will be removed if it is unsafe or inappropriate for them’ (Pictures: PA/Getty)
The Home Office has been accused of planning to deport children as young as 16 to Rwanda as part of its controversial migration policy.
The refugee charity Care4Calais claims it is in contact with 70 people in detention centres who the government plan to send to the African country – with two of them said to be aged 16.
In a statement, the organisation said: ‘The Home Office say [the two boys] are 23 and 26 so it is essential that proper age assessments are done before any deportation takes place. Our lawyers will fight for that.
‘One 16-year-old saw his brother killed in front of him when his village was raided in Sudan. He escaped and went back later to find the whole village gone.’
Meanwhile, the Mirror reports a 27-year-old man is being separated from his teenage brother in the UK while he is sent to Rwanda.
The individual, referred to by the pseudonym Saleh, has asked the government: ‘Why are you doing this to me when you’re not with other asylum seekers? Why Rwanda?
‘They don’t give a s***. I failed to take care of [my brother] when the smuggler separated us and I’m failing again.’
He said he would rather kill himself than abandon his teenage brother.
The Home Office has denied unaccompanied children would be deported to Rwanda and said ‘nobody will be removed if it is unsafe or inappropriate for them’.
But age assessments have also been criticised by the anti-trafficking organisation Love146 UK.
Campaigns manager Daniel Sohege told The Guardian: ‘We are seeing children as young as 14 being incorrectly age-assessed as 23.
‘The number of children we have seen who have seen who have just had 1999 put down as their date of birth when they are clearly under 18 is highly concerning, and putting young people at risk.’
Social worker Lauren Starkey added: ‘It is not within the realm of possibility that anyone, especially someone trained in child protection, could look at the children we have seen and believe they are in their 20s.’
Priti Patel, the home secretary, has continued to defend the ‘unprecedented’ plans. She claimed: ‘It’s exactly what the British people want.’
The first deportation flight to Rwanda is expected to take place on June 14.
In a statement, a Home Office spokesperson told Metro.co.uk: ‘Our world-leading Partnership with Rwanda is a key part of our strategy to overhaul the broken asylum system and break the evil people smugglers’ business model.
‘No one will be sent to Rwanda if it is not safe to do so. Adults passing themselves off as children is a serious safeguarding risk and in almost two thirds of disputed cases from March 2021-22, the person was found to be over 18.
‘Where a person has no credible evidence of their age, a thorough age assessment process will be followed. They will be treated as though they are a child until a decision on their age has been made.’
Home secretary Priti Patel has defended the scheme as being ‘exactly what the British people want’ (Picture: AP)
It’s understood the age assessment process is designed by the Home Office to ensure children receive support while preventing adults from identifying as children and posing a safeguarding risk.
Appearance and demeanour are used to help assess a person’s age if credible evidence of this kind is unavailable.
If there are concerns over an individual’s age, then the person is referred to an appropriate local authority to carry out a ‘Merton compliant’ age assessment by two social workers.
They are treated as a child until a decision on their age is made.
According to Home Office data seen by Metro.co.uk, more than half (50.6%) of refugee age disputes resolved in the first half of this year concluded with the individual being found to have been under 18.
This is compared to 39% of resolved cases in the same quarter last year.
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