Cheshire East

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High Court rejects challenge to refusal by council to reassess age of asylum seeker

The Administrative Court has rejected a claim that the Royal Borough of Greenwich should reassess the age of asylum seeker G, after disentangling evidence about the education system in Angola.

In G, R (On the Application Of) v Royal Borough of Greenwich [2021] EWHC 3348 (Admin) Clive Sheldon QC sitting as a deputy judge of the High Court, said fresh evidence from G that he was under 18 was not sufficiently compelling for Greenwich to reopen the assessment.

G said he had been born on 4 May 2003 when he arrived in the United Kingdom on 13 May 2019, and claimed asylum as an unaccompanied child.

Greenwich later assessed this age and concluded he was over 18 when initially accommodated.

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He was therefore transferred to the National Asylum Support Service, which placed him in Wakefield and later Middlesbrough where he now lives.

The court heard evidence from experts on the conflicting meanings of G’s references to various stages of his progress through the Angolan education system and their bearing on his claimed age.

Mr Sheldon said Greenwich did not engage properly with evidence from a Dr Schubert on Angola education but “this did not mean that the council acted irrationally and therefore unlawfully.

“The council was entitled to conclude that Dr Schubert's evidence about the education system in Angola did not address what was really troubling the assessors about G's account of his age: that G must have been at least 12 when he completed Year 7, and had five more years of education before he left Angola and must therefore have been at least 18 to 19 if his birthday was May 4th when he was accommodated by the council.”

Greenwich received various other evidence and observations on G’s likely age and Mr Sheldon said: “The council did look at the further information presented to it in the round, and did not just evaluate each piece of information in isolation.

“The conclusion that it reached that looking at all of the further information cumulatively did not justify a reassessment of G's age was, in my judgment, one which fell within the bands of reasonable response.”

He said the new evidence “certainly supported G's version of events”, but the original assessment had been based primarily on a timeline drawn from what G had himself said, and “where G's credibility had been found to be lacking in so many respects, the further information that G needed to put forward to justify a reassessment needed to be quite compelling.

“The council was entitled to conclude that the further information provided failed to meet that threshold; that it could not be said that a ‘significantly different conclusion’ might be reached.”

Mark Smulian

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