Thursday 15 November 2018

Secondary student investigated amid claims he is as old as 30

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Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

The age of a secondary school pupil is being investigated amid claims he is as old as 30.

It is thought the pupil at Stoke High School in Ipswich is an asylum seeker who joined at the start of the last term.

Another pupil at the school posted a photograph of him on Snapchat with the comment: "How's there a 30 year old man in our maths class."

A spokesperson for the school said: "This is a matter for the Home Office and we have referred it to them.

"The student is not attending the school at this time.

"We can not comment further on an individual case but we have followed government and local authority policies and guidance, as we do for any admissions matter."

A UK Home Office spokesperson said: "We do not routinely comment on individual cases."

If there is a doubt about someone's age as part of an immigration case, the UK Home Office can arrange for social workers to undertake an age assessment.

Because there are different policies, processes and rules for the treatment of adult and child asylum seekers, the UK Home Office has to establish at the outset the age category a claimant is in.

The department provides guidance for staff to follow when dealing with individuals whose age is in doubt and when there is no reliable documentary evidence to support the claimed age.

It says the claimant must be treated as an adult if their physical appearance and demeanour "very strongly suggests that they are significantly over 18 years of age".

Assessments of physical appearance can include indicators of age such as height, build, facial hair and voice pitch.

When assessing demeanour, officials can take into account observations on the individual's mannerisms, body posture and eye contact.

Instructions state age assessments cannot always provide the same degree of confidence about treating an individual as an adult or a child as can be provided by reliable documents, adding: "To allow for this, the principle of 'the benefit of the doubt' is applied."

Earlier this year, a watchdog report revealed some local authorities had raised concerns the "benefit of the doubt" policy was being applied "too readily" in relation to unaccompanied asylum seeking children.

The report, published in March by the UK Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, cited data indicating that from the start of July 2016 to the end of June 2017, the Home Office had raised 705 age disputes.

Of the 618 resolved, 402 (65%) claimants were found to be over 18 and 216 (35%) were found to be children.

Age verification processes came under scrutiny in 2016 when teenagers were transferred to the UK from Calais following the closure of the "Jungle" refugee camp.

Controversy erupted when UK Tory MP David Davies claimed some arrivals "don't look like children to me".

Ipswich MP Sandy Martin said the situation should have been resolved by the UK Home Office already.

He alleged that the school contacted the UK Home Office and had no response.

"It's the sort of situation the Home Office should have responded to very quickly," he said, adding: "Speedy response and Home Office hardly ever go in the same sentence together."

He said he was "not at all surprised the parents are upset", but advised them against taking their children out of the school as it is an "extremely safe environment for children".

Press Association

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