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The not so young asylum seeker


Jon Holbrook notes how Lambeth's decision to stand by the age assessment of its social workers was vindicated.

Abdul Nishat, an Afghan asylum seeker, claimed to be 17 years of age.  He said his mother knew his date of birth and that his family marked his birthday each year.  His claimed age was supported by the evidence of two independent social workers (Ken Ambat & Rose Palmer), three lay witnesses (English teacher and psychotherapists) and a taskera.

Lambeth had no doubt that Mr Nishat was not a child and assessed him in late 2011, when he claimed to be 15, as being 20 to 23 years old.  There was some evidence to suggest that he could be as old as 30.  Lambeth rejected the evidence of the independent social workers and of the lay witnesses and claimed the taskera was a forgery.

The day before a 3-day hearing Mr Nishat's independent social workers contacted his mother and her evidence significantly undermined Mr Nishat's case and his credibility generally.  In particular she said she did not know her son's date of birth and that birthdays were not celebrated in her family (the norm in an Afghan family).  She also claimed that when her son left Afghanistan he could not understand any English and that he hadn't been taught English in school.  This was contrary to Mr Nishat's claim that his English, which Lambeth found to be much better than he claimed, had been taught in school before he came to England.

On the morning of the 3-day hearing Mr Nishat withdrew his claim on the grounds that it was unsustainable and hence Lambeth's assessment of him being 20 to 23 years old, in late 2011, was unchallenged.  It was implicit in Mr Nishat's concession that the taskera was forged and that Mr Nishat probably arrived in the UK and learnt English some time before his claim to have arrived a day before seeking Lambeth's support.

Lambeth's robust stance was vindicated at the eleventh hour.  Having resisted the claim for over a year and after preparing for a 3-day hearing Lambeth sought, unsuccessfully, to persuade the Upper Tribunal to allow the proceedings to be used for "a detailed and condemnatory critique of the standing and professionalism of the independent social workers and the claimant's representatives" for the benefit of future litigants.

Click here for the Upper Tribunal's judgment.

Click here for an age assessment case (R(AM) v Solihull MBC) involving different independent experts