Up to 2,000 adult Albanian immigrants claimed to be children to boost their chances of avoiding deportation.
Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister, revealed that one in five (20 per cent) of adult male immigrants who arrived in Dover were, at times, claiming to be under 18 when those numbers were usually a small part of that.
Unaccompanied children are more likely to be granted asylum and less likely to be detained or deported if their application is rejected. People smugglers are suspected of exploiting legal loopholes to encourage young migrants to destroy their documents and pretend they are minors.
About 10,000 Albanian men have arrived on small boats so far this year, a quarter of the record 40,000 migrants who have crossed the canal.
Mr Jenrick said: “Sometimes up to 20 per cent of adult males make it to Western Jet Foil [reception centre in Dover] He claims to be under 18, when the number is much lower.
“We’ve already changed the law, to change the way those tests are administered, and if we need to make more legal changes, we will.”
The Home Office tightened the rules earlier this year, allowing officials to challenge the age of immigrants if their appearance and behavior strongly suggested they were 18 or older. The previous minimum age was 25 years.
Alp Mehmet, head of Immigration Control UK, said: “The large number crossing the Channel illegally claiming to be children reflects the ease with which the asylum system can be manipulated. Traffickers know that officials have been asked to give a benefit to any doubt where age is the issue. to the applicant.”
Home Office data shows that there were 1,696 cases in which the immigrant child’s age was questioned in the year ending September 2021. Of these, 1,118 – or 66 percent – were found to be 18 or older.
Race to find housing
It comes as Home Office officials race against time to find “appropriate” hotels and accommodation as well as consider “larger sites” for migrants amid fears that 10,000 more could cross the canal in the next six weeks before the New Year. . Nearly 9,000 arrived in this period last year.