Immigration guidance on assessing age of asylum seekers found to be unlawful


Re: BF (Eritrea) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2019] EWCA Civ 872

This was an appeal brought by a national of Eritrea. The appellant claimed that the Enforcement Instructions and Guidance, paragraph (c), was unlawful on the basis that assessment of age based on physical appearance/demeanour alone was inherently unreliable. He argued that this criterion was liable to lead to children being wrongly assessed as adults and accordingly unlawfully detained.

On 11 March 2014 the appellant arrived in the UK and told them his date of birth was 15 February 1998, in which case he would have been aged 16.  He said that he wanted to claim asylum. Two immigration officers believed that he was substantially over 18 describing his physical appearance as being that of “an adult in his mid-twenties”.

Held: Appeal allowed. This criterion falls short of what is required as it has no recognition of  how unreliable the exercise of assessing age on the basis of appearance and demeanour is and, in consequence, how wide a margin of error is required.

Richard Hermer QC and Chris Buttler were involved in this case.