Home Office using a Gillette shave test to guess age of migrants

Child migrants and their parents

The age assessment process involves "guesswork and speculation"

Mark White

By Mark White

Published: 22/09/2023

- 14:36

Updated: 22/09/2023

- 16:05

Home office workers have been criticised for using the test on young asylum seekers

Home Office case workers have been criticised for using a Gillette shave test to guess the age of migrants claiming to be children.

An immigration court has ruled the Home Office age assessment process involved “guesswork and speculation”.

The findings cast some doubt on official claims that almost 50 per cent of migrants who claim to be under the age of 18 are in fact adults.

The practice was revealed in an appeal brought by an Afghan asylum seeker, who officials determined was in his mid-20s and not a child, as he claimed.


However, the immigration judge who presided over the asylum seeker’s appeal, ruled that his real age at the time of his arrival in the UK was 16.

The court reached that determination after scrutinising the Home Office’s age assessment process and copies of identity documents provided.

The asylum seeker, who has not been named, arrived in a small boat in October 2021.

He was interviewed by two immigration officers on arrival in Dover, who determined his age as 25.

The hearing was told that officials had referenced a report from Gillette, the razor company, on the age at which people start shaving.

Their assessment had referenced comments made by the asylum seeker in an interview with officers, where he told them that he started shaving before leaving Afghanistan.

That led them to conclude that he was older than he claimed.


Migrants UKHuge numbers of migrants are still coming to Britain via small boats PA

The hearing was told that the assessors had also used other factors, like the young asylum seeker’s “thick eyebrows, stubble, defined Adam’s apple and triangular face shape”.

The judge said that observations about a person’s appearance, behaviour and demeanour were “inherently subjective and not properly capable of bearing much evidential weight”.

The ruling found that the use of those observations to question the applicant’s credibility undermined the official assessment.

The judge ruled against the Home Office’s assessment of the asylum seeker’s age as 25 and instead determined that he was 16 on the day he arrived in the UK.

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council told the Times that the case exposed the complexity of assessing an individual’s age.

He said: “Distinguishing between adults and children is not something that can be done quickly; it takes time and expertise to make the right decision. But the reality is that poor quality decisions are resulting in far too many children being wrongly age-assessed and put at risk.”

Migrants being brought to shore

Almost 50% of asylum seekers whose age was disputed, were found to be adults


A Home Office spokesperson told GB News they were “considering the judgement carefully to understand where any improvements can be made to future assessments.”

The spokesperson added: “It’s vital that we remove incentives for adults to pretend to be children in order to remain in the UK.

“Between January 2016 and June 2023, 49% of asylum applicants whose age was disputed, were found to be adults.”

From next year, more scientific methods for age assessments will be introduced by the Government.

Those tests will include x-rays of bones and teeth.

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