Afghan teenager could now be owed payments until he is 21
TENS of thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money was spent on deciding the age of a mysterious Afghan asylum seeker – who could now be owed money by the council.
The High Court heard how Croydon Council argued with the unaccompanied asylum seeker about his age after the alleged orphan's arrival in the UK in 2008.
On Tuesday, after a two-day hearing at the High Court, it was ruled that the boy, known as R, is now 18 years old – not 21 as the council had thought.
Lord Justice Kenneth Parker's decision means that R should have been treated as a child when he entered the country, and therefore been given the full range of Children Act benefits by Croydon.
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He could now claim "former child payments" from the council until he is 21.
R arrived in the UK in 2008 on the back of a lorry and claimed he was 15, but said he was unable to remember his birthdate as his parents were murdered when he was three years old.
But Croydon Council officers decided he was an adult and refused to school him, instead placing him in adult accommodation.
R has since had his age assessed twice by council officials as well as being examined in detail by two leading paediatricians.
R showed the court an Afghan identity document which he claimed showed he was born in 1993, but the judge said he had "very great concern" about its authenticity.
He said the best he could do was to estimate R's true age at 18 years and five months.
Croydon Council has age assessed more than 1,000 asylum-seekers in the last three years.
If they are thought to be over 18 the authority does not have to provide education or social care such as fostering.
Croydon Council would not detail how much the court case cost the taxpayer or comment on how much money the teenager can now claim.
A spokesman said: "There are undoubted difficulties surrounding the age assessment of unaccompanied asylum-seeker children.
"There are very good and obvious reasons for taking all possible steps to ensure that adults are not placed in schools or children's homes or with foster carers."