The Home Office has launched an ‘urgent’ probe into a balding ‘asylum seeker’ school pupil who parents complained ‘looks 40 years old posing as a teenager’.
Parents claimed yesterday that a pupil who is said to have recently moved to Britain from West Africa looks more like a 40-year-old man and has a receding hairline.
Photographs emerged purporting to show the asylum seeker student, following concerns raised by his fellow pupils after he joined a school in Coventry.
The city council had to write to parents to reassure them about the situation – and the school said it has been able to verify the pupil’s age, but did not explain how.
Now, the Government department is said to be ‘urgently’ investigating the claims, reported The Sun.
Photographs have emerged purporting to show the asylum seeker student, following concerns raised by his fellow pupils after he joined a school in Coventry
The pictures are understood to have been posted on Facebook after one concerned schoolgirl shared them in a private Snapchat message amid questions over his age.
The girl’s mother was then called into school to discuss the issue with teachers who expressed concerns that sharing the photos could amount to bullying.
She explained: ‘I said, “You can’t really blame the children [for talking about it] – he looks about 40”. They sort of nodded and said, “Yes – we did have concerns but we’ve been told that he is in fact Year 11 age”.
‘I just felt a bit annoyed that the school was trying to shut down my daughter. I said, ‘I’m all for encouraging free speech and I don’t agree that it was bullying as such.’
She added: ‘The school has said it’s inappropriate for us to question his age. There’s absolutely no way this boy looks 15. He looks about 40 to me.’
According to age assessment guidelines set out by the Home Office for when an asylum seeker or migrant claims to be a child, officers must first ask for documentary evidence.
It says that, in most cases, the check will be conducted on those who have ‘come to the attention of the UK authorities for the first time’, meaning that an age assessment has likely not been carried out by the local authority.
A Home Office spokesperson said: ‘Our asylum system is broken and in drastic need of reform.
The school pupil who recently moved to Britain from West Africa looks more like a 40-year-old man and has a receding hairline, parents claimed today
‘We will seek to stop abuse of the system while ensuring it is compassionate towards those who need our help, welcoming people through safe and legal routes.’
Meanwhile, another parent told the Metro: ‘Pupils were coming home saying there’s a man in our class, some were even saying they reckoned he could be aged up to 40.
‘He has a thin hairline and apparently he has no birth certificate or passport. He might be the right age, he might not. Either way parents would like some clarity.’
It is believed the pupil travelled to the UK without a birth certificate or passport, before being placed at an unnamed school.
In a letter, Coventry City Council assured parents that it carried out all necessary checks for the new student.
Coventry City Council (based at Council House in the city, pictured) assured parents that all necessary checks were carried out for the new student
It added that local authorities are obliged to process school applications from migrant children arriving in England, and that concerns over a pupil’s age are usually clarified by asking for a birth certificate or passport.
The letter adds: ‘On some rare occasions if pupils arrive as asylum seekers and alone, i.e. without parents, these may not always be available.’
The school said it followed Department for Education guidance and carried out the correct procedures when identifying any children placed on the school roll.
Asylum seekers have posed as children before. In 2018, an investigation revealed an Iranian migrant posed as a 15-year-old GCSE student – but told classmates he was 25.
The 6ft 1in man, who came to Britain using the name Siavash, spent six weeks as a Year 11 pupil at Stoke High School in Ipswich, Suffolk.
He was only taken out of class when pupils became upset and parents threatened a boycott. An official probe concluded he was almost certainly over 18.