The impact of age assessment on young people on the move

Young people on the move face monumental hurdles on their journey to a new home. Often escaping from war, disasters, or poverty, they are particularly vulnerable to the numerous physical and emotional challenges of migration.

Global problem: biased age assessments of young migrants

One of the greatest difficulties for young migrants can be in proving their age. Age assessment techniques are used at borders and during asylum processes across the world, requiring individuals to prove that they are under 18 and therefore legally a child.

Under the status of 'child', individuals gain access to additional protection, state support, and in some cases, it impacts the outcome of the asylum application. With so much at stake for young people on the move, it’s vital that age assessments are unbiased.

In May 2019, a court of appeal judgment found that the British Home Office’s age assessment technique of on-the-spot visual assessment was unlawful. Two months before, the French Conseil constitutionnel controversially decided to validate the constitutionality of bone age tests for migrants, despite doubts regarding their accuracy.

In both countries, the age assessment issue is at the centre of heated debates, with headlines calling for the medical assessment of the age of so-called refugee children while many NGOs advocate for less subjective practices.

Manchester solution: using historical context to inform current policy debate

A new project led by Dr Antoine Burgard at the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute is seeking to investigate the history of age assessment in migration control to better understand contemporary practices.

Focusing primarily on 20th century Britain and France, the project will investigate the evolution of age assessment techniques and put the voices and experiences of young migrants at the centre. In doing so, it will provide historical context to ongoing public and policy debates surrounding medical ethics, migrant health and refugee rights.

Find out more

Meet the researcher:

Event: Age assessment and asylum: Laura Gibbons & Gulwali Passarlay in discussion

One of the greatest difficulties for asylum seeking children can be proving they are under 18 and therefore legally a child. Under this status, they have (or should have) access to additional protection and state support. In the current hostile environment that fosters a widespread ‘culture of disbelief’ towards migrants, age claims are increasingly disputed by the Home Office.

Stream the YouTube video of a conversation between political refugee Gulwali Passarlay and Laura Gibbons, who specialises in representing age disputed asylum-seeking children.