UK immigration officials claim the asylum seeker had apparently been coached to act like a child.
01 February 2012
Asylum seekers trained to ‘act like children’ to fool UK immigration system
A British court has been told that human traffickers are encouraging young adult asylum seekers to claim they are children to UK immigration authorities in an effort to claim more benefits once they arrive.
The allegation was made during an Afghan asylum seeker's appeal at the High Court; the asylum seeker, with the help of a publicly funded legal team, claims he is 16 but UK immigration officials argue he is actually closer to 20.
The unnamed immigrant arrived in the country without a UK visa in 2009 and claimed he was 14, but social workers said that his physical appearance suggested he was much older.
Furthermore, his behaviour during interviews, which included avoiding eye contact with assessors and not demanding anything from officials contrasted with the asylum seeker's insistence on speaking to a lawyer despite his apparent timidity.
This led to the suspicion that his stated age might not be accurate and he had been coached, possibly by traffickers, to increase his chances of gaining asylum in the UK.
His claim for asylum was rejected in May 2010 on the grounds that his evidence was "self-serving and rehearsed", but his planned removal in November of that year was delayed after his legal team challenged both the deportation and the age assessment.
His legal team contends that the boy's seemingly advanced physical development was due to his ethnicity, and that several Afghan youths in the boy's region develop quicker than British youths.
They also contend that the boy's mental capabilities are severely limited and his intelligence ranks "in the bottom 1% of the population".
This entitles the boy, claim his legal team, not only to UK asylum but to full time education until the age of 25.
The presiding judge, Mrs Justice Lang, has reserved her decision to an unspecified later date.
Immigration officials claim this case is the latest in a long line of similar cases of asylum seekers exploiting the extra rights offered to children with cases including children being kidnapped in their home countries and being brought over and other instances of apparent coaching.
The UK Visa Bureau is an independent immigration consultancy specialising in helping people prepare for their UK Ancestry Visa application.