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*Law of Aliens

Published on December 29th, 2017 | by Georgia Archonti

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UK Upper Tribunal rules on the benefit of the doubt in age assessment cases

On 11 November 2017, the UK Upper Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) ruled in case AS, R (on the application of) v. Kent County Council, which concerned the application of the principle of the benefit of the doubt in age assessment cases. The case concerned an Afghan national who fled his country of origin after his father was kidnapped and killed by the Taliban. He lodged an asylum application in the UK in September 2015, which was rejected and is now pending on appeal. In parallel, the applicant applied for a judicial review of the decision by the Kent County Council on his age assessment, seeking a declaration that he was 15 and not 17 years old at the time of the assessment.

First of all, the UK Upper Tribunal affirmed that the application of the benefit of the doubt in cases of age dispute is nothing more than an acknowledgment that age assessment cannot be concluded with complete accuracy (absent documentary evidence) and that, where there is doubt as to whether an individual is over 18 or not, the decision-maker should conclude that the applicant is under 18. However, this does not mean, contrary to the applicant’s submission, that if a decision-maker concludes that a child is between 15 and 17 years old, application of the benefit of the doubt would lead to a decision that he or she is 15. Secondly, in addition to the issues identified in ZM & SK, the methods to determine age known as Root Pulp Visibility (RPV) and Periodontal Ligament Visibility (PLV) are unreliable. Finally, based on the evidence before it, the Upper Tribunal upheld the probable date of birth of the applicant as established by the Kent County Council.

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