It’s not true that 50% of child asylum seekers turn out to be adults

22 September 2023
What was claimed

50% of child asylum seekers turn out to be adults.

Our verdict

Although around 50% of all resolved age dispute cases involve asylum seekers who are ultimately found to be over 18, it’s not correct to say 50% of all children seeking asylum turn out to be adults, as the majority of applicants claiming to be under 18 are not subject to age disputes.

In a post to X (formerly Twitter) last week, Reform UK party leader Richard Tice shared an article about plans to introduce new age assessment processes for asylum seekers, and stated that “50% ‘children’ turn out to be adults”.

This isn’t true.

As we’ve explained previously, the 50% figure likely refers to the percentage of resolved cases where someone’s age has been disputed and they are ultimately found to be over 18.

But as only a minority of asylum applicants who claim to be under 18 have their age disputed, it’s not correct to say that 50% of all child asylum seekers turn out to be adults.

Misleading use of official information without appropriate context and caveats can damage public trust in both official information and intermediaries like public figures. Caveats and context should always be included when claims are made, and oversights rectified when they occur.

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Age disputes

The Daily Mail article shared by Mr Tice reports that: “Between 2016 and June 2023, there were over 11,275 asylum cases where age was disputed and almost half of the individuals (5,551) were found to be adults”.

Government figures show 11,275 is the number of age disputes which were resolved over this period—the number of disputes raised over the same period was slightly higher at 12,855.

Of the 11,275 resolved disputes, it’s correct that 5,551 were found to be over 18—approximately 49%.

But this isn’t the same as saying 50% of all child asylum seekers were found to be adults.

Between January 2016 and June 2023, there were a total of 30,114 asylum applications made by under 18s, most of whom were unaccompanied minors.

These figures don’t include dependents in asylum applications made by adults.

Over the same period, there were 11,893 age disputes relating to asylum applications made in the same quarter as the dispute was raised, meaning approximately 39% of all asylum applications made by people claiming to be under 18 were subject to an age dispute.

If you were to take the number of age dispute cases resolved to be adults between 2016 and June 2023 as a proportion of all applications made by under 18s during the same period, it would be around 18%.

Importantly, this figure is only indicative as some of the age dispute decisions may relate to applications raised before 2016, and there are also likely to be some outstanding age disputes involving asylum applications raised during this period.

Regardless, these figures show that substantially fewer than half of all asylum-seeking children are found to be adults.

We’ve contacted Mr Tice for comment and will update this article if we receive a response.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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