LONDON: The UK Home Office used a report compiled by a razor manufacturer about how and when young men start shaving to assess the ages of migrants, The Times reported on Friday.
A hearing into the case of a young Afghan asylum-seeker revealed that officials had used the study by Gillette to determine he was 25 years old when he was rescued from a sinking boat in the English Channel in October 2021.
The asylum-seeker, who has not been named, insisted to immigration officials he was below the age of 18.
At an appeal into his right to stay in the UK in July this year, a judge determined he was 16 when he arrived in the UK.
Having assessed the evidence provided, including identification documents from the young Afghan, the judge criticized the Home Office and immigration officials for using “guesswork and speculation” to decide the age of some asylum-seekers.
The judge found that officials decided the asylum-seeker was older than he said he was based on the young man’s assertion that he had started shaving regularly before he fled Afghanistan in 2021.
The decision, the judge said, was “inherently subjective and not properly capable of bearing much evidential weight.”
Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council, told The Times: “Distinguishing between adults and children is not something that can be done quickly; it takes time and expertise to make the right decision.
“But the reality is that poor quality decisions are resulting in far too many children being wrongly age-assessed and put at risk.”
A Home Office spokesman said in statement: “It’s vital that we remove incentives for adults to pretend to be children in order to remain in the UK.
“Between January 2016 and the year ending in June 2023, 49 per cent of asylum applicants whose age was disputed were found to be adults.
“We are strengthening the age verification process through the National Age Assessment Board, introducing scientific assessments, such as x-rays, and measures under the Illegal Migration Act which will help ensure assessments are robust and protect children.”