(1) what the (a) average and (b) maximum length of time is that an individual who has been defined as an age dispute case has been held in an immigration removal centre pending release to local authority care in the last 12 months for which figures are available;
(2) what the (a) average and (b) maximum length of time is that an individual who has been held in an immigration removal centre pending an age assessment in the last 12 months for which figures are available;
(3) how many individuals have been detained in immigration removal centres for the purpose of age assessment in the last 12 months for which figures are available; and how many of those individuals were found to be (a) adults and (b) children.
The specific data requested in the hon. Member's first two questions is not routinely recorded.
Home Office policy requires that individuals will be treated as adults, and detained, only in the following circumstances:
if there is credible and clear documentary evidence that they are 18 years of age or over; or if a full "Merton-compliant" age assessment by a local authority is available stating that they are 18 years of age or over; or if their physical appearance / demeanour very strongly suggests that they are significantly over 18 years of age and no other credible evidence exists to the contrary; or if the individual:
prior to detention, gave a date of birth that would make them an adult and/or stated they were an adult; and only claimed to be a child after a decision had been taken on their asylum claim; and only claimed to be a child after they had been detained; and has not provided credible and clear documentary evidence proving their claimed age; and does not have a Merton-compliant age assessment stating they are a child; and does not have an unchallenged court finding indicating that they are a child; and physical appearance / demeanour very strongly suggests that they are 18 years of age or over.
All seven of these latter criteria must apply.
In some circumstances one or more of these criteria will be met and the individual correctly detained as an adult only for, subsequently, new information to come to light which casts doubt on the original assessment of whether the individual is a child or an adult. In these circumstances, the individual will be released into the care of social services for a formal assessment of their age (this may be a reassessment if they were detained on the basis of a previous assessment) at the earliest opportunity and the individual will be treated as a child pending the outcome of this assessment. Delays can occur if the relevant local authority is unable to attend immediately to take custody of the individual and if the decision is taken that it is in the best interests of the individual, from a safeguarding perspective, for them to stay in the immigration removal centre until social services are able to attend.