Child asylum seekers in UK forced to share rooms with adults

Faisal said he does not feel comfortable in the shared room in an adult hotel he was sent to and has felt suicidal…reports Asian Lite News

Children seeking asylum in the UK are being forced to share hotel rooms with adults as a result of the Home Office’s new “maximization” program, The Guardian newspaper reported on Monday.

The policy aims to double the capacity in hotels used to house refugees by putting two people in rooms designed for a single occupant, in an attempt to reduce the costs of accommodating migrants while their asylum requests are processed.

The Refugee Council has warned that child refugees are frequently incorrectly identified as adults at UK borders, which exposes them to serious safety risks and the dangers have been heightened by the new room-sharing policy.

The Guardian spoke to seven young asylum seekers living in Yorkshire who said they told border guards they were 16 or 17 when they arrived in the UK, but were all wrongly classified as adults by officials who recorded their ages as ranging from 22 to 26. Refugee Council workers who interviewed the young people, and verified their identity documents where available, believe mistakes were made.

Faisal, a 16-year-old who arrived in the UK in August on a small boat from Eritrea, said he was given a document that correctly noted the day and month of his birth but incorrectly stated the year as being 10 years earlier than it really was, thereby recording his age as 26.

A French-Arabic interpreter had been assigned to his case rather than a Tigrinya-speaking interpreter, and as a result Faisal said he struggled to understand what was being said to him.

“Maybe the interpreter gave them the wrong information. They made me 10 years older; I couldn’t understand it,” he told The Guardian.

Faisal said he does not feel comfortable in the shared room in an adult hotel he was sent to and has felt suicidal.

“I’m sharing with a man who’s about 30,” he added. “I feel lost. Sometimes I put my head under the bedding and cry. I miss my mom.”

Three Afghan teenagers said they had digital photos of their national identity cards that proved they were children but were unable to show them to officials at the border because their phones had been confiscated during the screening process on arrival.

The age of one of them, Mohammed, whose identification papers show he is 16, was recorded as 22 at the border.

“They put my birthday down correctly, but they put 2001 instead of 2007,” he said. “I said: ‘That’s not the right year,’ and they said, ‘Don’t worry, a case worker will sort it out for you later.’”

But Mohammed said he was unable to have the mistake corrected and was put in a hotel room with a 40-year-old man who smokes at the window, attracting the attention of hotel security guards.

It was not clear to the seven boys in Yorkshire exactly how officials at the border assessed their ages. Only one of them was aware of being given what he thought was a physical examination.

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