Councils supply border agency with ‘too many’ asylum details

    Local authorities have been accused of supplying more information on asylum-seeking children than they should to the UK Border’s Agency (UKBA), which is allegedly using the information to make decisions on deportation.

    The charity Action on Rights for Children (Arch) surveyed 120 authorities and found 54 of them supplied the UKBA with a full age assessment rather than just evidence of the child’s age.

    The report (Unaccompanied Children Seeking Asylum: Privacy, Consent and Data Protection) stated: “Unless a local authority obtains valid consent to supply information over and above that which is necessary to support their decision as to a child’s age, the provision of such data to others does not appear to meet the requirements of the first data protection principle in terms of fair and lawful processing.”

    The authors of the report, Terri Dowty, director of Arch, and Dr Ian Brown, senior research fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, said although the stated purpose of supplying data to UKBA is to establish age, they had found evidence the information was often used to decide on asylum.

    “We have been given copies of letters sent from UKBA to unaccompanied children which clearly indicate that information gathered during the age-assessment is being used to assess the veracity of the asylum claim itself, even where it has been accepted that the applicant is a child.

    “Unless the child understands that any information provided may also be used in consideration of their asylum claim – and not purely for the purposes of assessing age – and has the opportunity to obtain advice and representation as necessary, the supply of data to UKBA and its subsequent use for purposes other than age assessment do not meet the standards for fair processing under the Data Protection Act.”

    Dowty said they had been disappointed not to have had a response from Croydon Council to the survey, despite an FOI request.

    “Although we will be pursuing these matters, this will inevitably take time and we felt that we had delayed writing this report for long enough while we waited for replies,” she said.

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