Child - Asylum seeker claiming to be a child
R (on the application of W) v Croydon London Borough Council and another: Queen's Bench Division, Administrative Court (London) (CMG Ockelton sitting as a deputy judge of the High Court (judgment delivered extempore)): 13 April 2012
The claimant was an Afghan national and had claimed asylum on his entry into the UK. The claimant submitted that although he had not truly known his age, throughout his life he had been informed by others of certain dates and anniversaries. Calculating the years that he had attended school, a training course and working in a shop, he claimed to have been born in 1995 and accordingly, had been a child when he arrived in the country. He did have documentary evidence. However, that had not been official documentation and had not been complete.
His application for asylum had been refused, but the claimant sought to establish that he had been a child when he arrived and that the first defendant local authority should accordingly treat him as such. A social worker on behalf of the local authority assessed the claimant as an adult, although the social worker had accepted that the task had been a difficult one and that his findings had essentially been reached upon experience. The claimant challenged that decision. The second defendant secretary of state had been joined to the action but had not contested the claimant's challenge.
The issue for determination was, accordingly, whether the evidence had established that the claimant was a child when he had entered the UK. The claim would be dismissed.
The claimant's oral evidence had been consistent throughout in regard to his age and had been consistent with the story that he had given to the authority when interviewed by the social worker. However, the level of consistency had given the impression that his story had been rehearsed, since on issues that he did have answers, those answers remained exactly the same throughout and had been detailed, whereas there had been other areas in which he simply had not known the answer. Accordingly, he had not been a credible witness and his story could not be believed, nor had the documents assisted his case.
However, notwithstanding his doubtful account, the evidence had not established that the claimant had not been a child when he entered the country. The fact however that he had learnt and rehearsed the answers to give, had established that those who he had been travelling with before he had arrived in the UK had been aware that, as a child, the claimant would have received greater state assistance than if he were an adult. It could therefore be assumed from the need to rehearse appropriate responses, that when he had been travelling to the UK, and accordingly when he had arrived in the UK, the claimant had been an adult. The court accordingly found that the claimant had been over 18 when he had arrived in the UK.
Shu Shin Luk (instructed by T V Edwards LLP) for the claimant; Rhys Hadden (instructed by Croydon London Borough Council) for the authority; The secretary of state did not appear and was not represented.