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Two out of three people seeking refuge in UK claimed to be under 18... but lied about their true age

The number of asylum seekers pretending to be children has reached a record high, according to official data.

More than 1,100 migrants who claimed to be under 18 were found to be adults in the 12 months to September.

It was the highest number since the collection of figures began in 2006.

Border Force brings in a group of people thought to be migrants in to Dover, Kent. More than 1,100 migrants who claimed to be under 18 were found to be adults in the 12 months to September

And 66 per cent of those claiming to be children were in fact not – compared with 47 per cent in 2019/20.

Migration Watch UK, which campaigns for tougher border controls and analysed the Home Office figures, suggested people traffickers were encouraging migrants to try for special privileges.

Its report warned that false age claims could also lead to the dangerous situation of adults being placed alongside vulnerable young people in schools and housing.

The group's chairman, Alp Mehmet, said: 'The asylum system is so open to abuse that adults claiming to be children can be given the benefit of the doubt and be placed among minors in both accommodation and schools.

'The risks to the safety of our children are obvious.

'It is high time the Government stopped pandering to the immigration industry and dealt with adult migrants as such and not as what they claim to be.'

Migrants who claim to be underage receive better housing and support, a more sympathetic hearing for their asylum claim and are less likely to be detained.

Each lone child migrant looked after by a local authority costs taxpayers £46,000 a year.

The policy is to give them the benefit of the doubt if they appear to be under 25. Officials can also carry out linguistic analysis as well as assess development.

But this is to change under the Nationality and Borders Bill going through the Houses of Parliament.

An age assessment board will oversee how decisions are made – with new scientific methods used to determine an applicant's real age.

However Migration Watch expressed concerns that the proposals did not go far enough.

In one of the most troubling examples of an asylum seeker pretending to be a child, Parson's Green terrorist Ahmed Hassan posed as a 16-year-old before setting off a 'Mother of Satan' bomb on a London Tube train in 2017, injuring 23 people.

His real age remains unknown, but the judge who jailed the Iraqi for 34 years in 2018 said he was satisfied the bomber was between 18 and 21.

Mr Justice Haddon-Cave, at the Old Bailey, added: 'I am satisfied that you lied about your date of birth on arrival in order to glean the special privileges accorded to children entering the UK.'

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