Coun­cil finds 24 asy­lum seek­ers who are pos­ing as chil­dren

Daily Mail - - Countdown To Brexit D-day - By Liz Hull

A LE­GAL fight has be­gun to stop al­most £1million of tax­pay­ers’ money be­ing spent on adult asy­lum seek­ers pos­ing as chil­dren, it emerged last night.

Since May Liver­pool coun­cil say 39 refugees whose age was in doubt have ar­rived in the city.

Fol­low­ing spe­cial­ist as­sess­ments cost­ing £60,000, 24 were found to be adults, while only 15 were un­der 18. An­other 17 cases are un­der re­view.

Some asy­lum seek­ers com­ing to Bri­tain try to lie about their age be­cause sup­port for un­der-18s is much bet­ter than for adults.

Chil­dren must be of­fered free ac­cess to schools and uni­ver­si­ties, secure hous­ing and qual­ify for more ben­e­fits.

But coun­cil­lors in Liver­pool say that when the age of an asy­lum seeker is dis­puted, so­lic­i­tors rep­re­sent­ing the refugees at­tempt to con­test the coun­cil’s age as­sess­ment by threat­en­ing to take the au­thor­ity to ju­di­cial re­view.

In­stead of in­cur­ring high le­gal costs, the coun­cil has been pro­vid­ing homes and sup­port for the young im­mi­grants – at a cost of around £350,000 a year – until they claim they reach adult­hood.

How­ever, ac­cord­ing to a re­port to the coun­cil’s ed­u­ca­tion and chil­dren’s ser­vices com­mit­tee, it can’t go on fund­ing the in­creas­ing num­bers as it tack­les a £6.6mil­lion bud­get short­fall.

Bosses have now agreed to pay to fight the next six cases in court. They say that if they win, it could save them up to £850,000 a year.

Coun­cil­lor Barry Kush­ner, cabi­net mem­ber for chil­dren and so­cial care on the city coun­cil, said: ‘We will start to chal­lenge these cases so we’re not rolling over all the time.

‘But this is a ju­di­cial re­view and is ex­pen­sive. They cost £20,000 to £30,000 a time. There are some le­gal firms play­ing the sys­tem, which is a real is­sue. We need the Gov- ern­ment to link things to­gether be­cause their age as­sess­ments at the point of en­try into the UK are not ro­bust enough.

‘Even if we think young peo­ple are adults, we have to get a proper as­sess­ment and place them in the right en­vi­ron­ment – we can’t put them with other chil­dren – which takes time and money. Lo­cal tax­pay­ers are pick­ing up the tab for what should be com­ing out of the na­tional pot.’

The Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment As­so­ci­a­tion said Liver­pool’s prob­lems were not unique.

Deputy chair­man David Sim­monds said: ‘This is a na­tional is­sue. The process at the bor­der is pretty weak be­cause there is no de­fin­i­tive way of check­ing age. Lawyers know a ju­di­cial re­view will cost a coun­cil be­tween £20,000 and £ 60,000 and use the threat of court to get their client what they want.

‘Fair play to Liver­pool for try­ing to stand up to it. But win or lose, the tax­payer al­ways loses out.’

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, the 15 asy­lum seek­ers cor­rectly iden­ti­fied as chil­dren should have been dis­persed at their point of en­try in the UK by the Home Of­fice and not sent to Liver­pool. Fail­ure to as­sess them ear­lier has cost tax­pay­ers in the city more than £650,000 in fos­ter place­ment and ac­com­mo­da­tion costs.

While Liver­pool should be able to re­cover that from the Gov­ern­ment, it is still pay­ing for the other 17 refugees who claim to be un­der 18 while their cases are as­sessed.

The re­port said: ‘ If the re­sults are sim­i­lar to the 39, this could cost Liver­pool City Coun­cil an ad­di­tional circa £500,000, on top of the ex­ist- ing £1million.’ Last month, an in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­gan af­ter par­ents at a school in Suf­folk com­plained that an asy­lum seeker pos­ing as a boy of 15 was at­tend­ing lessons with their chil­dren.

Si­avash Shah, de­scribed by pupils as hav­ing a beard and look­ing 30, spent six weeks as a Year 11 pupil at Stoke High School in Ip­swich. He is ex­pected to be de­ported af­ter the Home Of­fice con­cluded he was older than 18.

A Home Of­fice spokesman said: ‘Age- dis­puted cases re­main chal­leng­ing.

‘The Home Of­fice will treat some­one claim­ing to be a child as an adult where their ap­pear­ance and de­meanour very strongly sug­gests they are sig­nif­i­cantly over 18.

‘ We recog­nise that lo­cal au­thor­i­ties feel fund­ing for sup­port­ing unac­com­pa­nied asy­lum- seek­ing chil­dren re­mains an is­sue and that is why it is un­der re­view.’

‘It takes time and money’

Storm: Si­avash Shah claimed to be 15

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