Report: ‘Happy Birthday?’ Disputing the age of children in the immigration system

‘When I first came in this country the first person I meet give me an age she think I might be. The only thing left with me was my identity but she denied it by giving me what she believes I am’
Young personHappy birthday

Children who arrive alone in the UK are regularly disbelieved about how old they are and can spend many years without access to education or appropriate support, or end up in unsupervised accommodation with adults or in adult immigration detention centres. The only way to challenge this treatment is to pursue costly and protracted legal proceedings.

This report from Coram Children’s Legal Centre examines the age assessment process and the practical and emotional impact of age disputes on young people in the immigration system. The report reveals the human cost of a process that can be too long, too adversarial and fails to adequately consider the needs of the individuals involved. It highlights the impact on local authorities and the courts, and the financial cost of a system in which litigation is so often the only means of resolution.

The report explores means of improving the current process and alternative ways to address the issue of age that work in the interests of children and young people. It calls for positive action from central and local government to implement practical changes so that children do not continue to bear the brunt of a deeply flawed and costly system.