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Protect children from asylum seekers pretending to be under 18, Tory MP urges

Children in the UK must be protected from asylum seekers who are pretending to be under 18 years old, a Conservative MP told the Commons.

Caroline Johnson said the Government has a duty to prevent children from being accommodated or educated with those who are pretending be a child.

Former home secretary Dame Priti Patel urged the Government to implement measures set out in the Nationality and Borders Act to safeguard children.

During a debate on the House of Lords’ amendments to the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill, Dr Johnson said: “One of the things the Government clearly has to do, is it has a duty to protect all children.

Priti Patel
Former home secretary Dame Priti Patel urged the Government to implement measures set-out in the Nationality and Borders Act to safeguard children (Victoria Jones/PA)

“One of the challenges is that we know we do have people who will pretend to be a child when they’re not.”

The Sleaford and North Hykeham MP added: “The Government has to protect children from being deported to places they shouldn’t be deported to.

“It also has a duty to protect children in the United Kingdom from being accommodated or educated with people who are not children and who therefore cause them harm in that place.”

Dame Priti told MPs that she was made aware of a 42-year-old who was masquerading as a child during her time as home secretary.

The Conservative MP for Witham said: “We must recognise the fact that actually it was the Nationality and Borders Act that put forward the amendments and the changes around safeguarding children in our own education system and in our local government system as well, that is vital.

“I think this is a moment now the Lords have tabled this amendment to reflect upon actually implementing these measures and these proposals.

“It’s absolutely vital, it really is.”

Dame Priti added: “It was while I was home secretary it was brought to me the case of a 42-year-old who was masquerading as a child and in fact it became a national story.

“And it is through that, that we did look at the age assessment measures and we worked with scientists but also we looked at other EU countries and what they were doing.

“I would urge the Government to get on and implement this, time has lagged too long now, you know it’s almost two years.

“But these safeguards and protections are absolutely critical.”

Labour peer Baroness Lister of Burtersett put forward amendment seven which seeks to protect asylum seekers who say they are unaccompanied children.

The amendment would allow asylum seekers to appeal against an age assessment decision before they are sent to Rwanda.