Asylum applicants who claim to be children do not have any definitive documentary evidence to support their claimed age. However, a decision on their age still needs to be made. Many are clearly children whilst some are very clearly adults. The Home Office therefore require more careful assessment of the applicant’s age. Any disputed age assessment is subjected to an independent / third party re-assessment by an independent qualified age assessor. OFS has qualified social workers who are trained ‘Merton complaint’ age assessors available to undertake this piece of work on behalf of local authorities, solicitors or the Home Office.
The term ‘Merton Complaint’ came from judgment handed down by Burnton J in the High Court on 14th July 2003, and gives ‘guidance as to the requirements of a lawful assessment by a local authority of the age of a young asylum seeker claiming to be under the age of 18 years’. All local authorities are required, following the Merton judgment, to ensure that their assessments are full and comprehensive, and that the process for assessing age is clear, transparent and fair. This was in relation to a dispute about an age assessment of an asylum seeker undertaken by London Borough of Merton.
A Merton Compliant assessment will normally include a face-to-face meeting with the young person; set out the general background of the applicant, and adhere to standards of fairness. Some of the key points noted by the court were:.