Underage migrants detained as adults in UK – media
At least 16 asylum seekers had their birth dates changed by British officials so they could be interned at a controversial detention center run by the Home Office, The Observer reported on Sunday, citing a group that helps migrants entering the UK.
The Refugee Council told the British newspaper that it interviewed 16 children recently released from the Manston Asylum Center in Kent. The boys told the organization that they were all aged between 15 and 17, but were recorded as over 18 by Home Office staff. Three had photographs of passports or ID documents apparently proving their age, but the Council said this evidence was ignored.
The boys were then held in Manston for up to 20 days at a time, before the center was closed last week following allegations of overcrowding and violence, and the death of one detainee allegedly infected with diphtheria.
The Manston center was built to handle record numbers of migrants crossing the British Channel to enter the UK. More than 40,000 people have made the journey so far this year, according to Home Office data – the highest figure since record keeping began in 2018. The largest share of the migrants are from Albania, a country that is considered “safe” by the British government.
Once released from temporary centers like Manston, children registered as adults can be sent to adult accommodation, usually in hotels, across the UK. The Refugee Council argues that minors should be placed into care instead, and said it has taken 92 minors out of the adult system and into care since September.
While activists say the system is failing children, Home Office figures from January 2018 to March 2022 show that 2,722 out of 4,814 unaccompanied migrants claiming to be children were discovered to be adults once investigated. The remaining 9,394 unaccompanied migrants claiming to be underage were not investigated.