Revealed: Adult asylum seeker who posed as a 15-year-old schoolboy to sit GCSEs ‘is still being treated as a child by British authorities’
- Parents say that government and the school have ‘failed to protect our children’
- Asylum seeker spent six weeks studying for his GCSEs at Stoke High in Ipswich
- Refugee pupil allegedly told a fellow schoolboy he was a married father of two
- Facebook images of him allegedly swigging beer with full beard also emerged
The Iranian asylum seeker who posed as a 15-year-old GCSE student is still being treated as a child despite him being outed as an adult.
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, but was only taken out of class when pupils became upset and parents threatened a boycott.
An official probe found he is almost certainly over 18 and should be treated as an adult asylum seeker, which would mean he could be deported if his claim is refused.
But a source claims that the Home Office is still treating him as a child and that he is still claiming to be under 18 on his application, telling The Sun: ‘He’s been pulled out of school but he’s still protected as a minor.’
The Home Office launched an investigation after the man was sharing a school with children as young as 11.
Siavash, the refugee student removed from Stoke High School in Ipswich (pictured by another student on Snapchat) has been confirmed as an adult by the Home Office after they initially accepted he was 15
Stoke High School, whose principal is Caroline Wilson, has also been accused of failing its children with critics saying his true age should have been ‘spotted from day one’.
Desmond Newby, 51, kept his daughters Jamie, 15, and Alicia, 13, out of class while the man was there and said today: ‘All I wanted in the first place was for him to be removed. I’m ashamed both for the school and the Government for allowing this to happen. They have both failed to protect our children. The teachers should be sacked’.
He added: ‘If the kids knew he’s the age he is, how come the school didn’t know?
‘How come the school that’s supposed to take care of our children have let this happen? They’re supposed to safeguard them.’
The student was suspended earlier this month after a fellow student posted a Snapchat picture of him in uniform in a classroom with the message: ‘How’s there a 30-year-old man in our maths class?’
Mr Newby, who lives with his wife Victoria, 32, said Jamie had sat an exam with the alleged asylum seeker.
The father said: ‘We took our kids out of school as soon as it happened.
‘I went down there and asked them about it. I said you don’t know who he is, what he’s there for.
‘I said what about the safety of the kids?’
The professional driver from Ipswich, Suffolk added that he was ‘furious’ that parents had not been kept better informed about the investigation into the alleged asylum seeker’s age.
He said: ‘The school are keeping their mouths shut about it.
‘If there’s nothing to hide, why don’t they just tell everyone?’
The student’s classmates had also discovered what appeared to be old pictures of him on Facebook, showing him with a full beard, a hairy chest and swigging a beer.
The man was suspended from school after classmates started questioning his age and also claimed they found pictures of him on Facebook swigging a beer in Germany (pictured) with a full beard
One boy even claimed he confessed to being a married father-of-two during a game of football in the playground.
The man’s brother was in Year 7 but the Home Office insists he is a child, but he has been moved to a new school.
Mr Newby said of the GCSE pupil: ‘The children are worried because being in that position, he could have been anyone.
‘If the Home Office is supposed to be checking the immigrants when they come into the country, how come they just turn around and look at someone and say yes, they’re 15 years old?
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‘We had to have proof to get our kids into Stoke High School.
‘No one even knows where he’s gone to. We want to know why they’re allowing it to happen.
‘If anything had happened, then what? It’s unbelievable really.
‘It took a load of children to turn around and tell the adults there was something wrong with that man.’
In what could be a landmark case for child asylum seekers entering Britain, it emerged today:
- Home Office probe concludes the man at the centre of the row – who said he was 15 – is almost certainly an adult;
- Investigators who looked at his case again were so confident he was over the age of 18 they didn’t need a medical examination or teeth x-ray;
- Immigration officials who failed to dispute his age when he arrived in the UK face an investigation;
- School will also face safeguarding questions over whether they could have raised the alarm earlier;
- Parents claimed they were threatened with legal action by the school when they questioned the student’s true age – while pupils who pointed out his facial hair were told teenager mature at different rates;
- Man’s brother was in Year 7. His age is not in dispute but he has now been moved out of the school;
Parents and children at the school have expressed their anger about the scandal.
A Year 7 boy, who was in the same class as the younger brother of the asylum seeker, spoke outside the school this afternoon with the permission of his mother.
He said: ‘It was really scary at first because you don’t know if they’re going to be a really bad person. How was he allowed to get into the school without any checks?’.
How young asylum seekers are aged by height, facial hair and voice – but many are ‘given benefit of doubt’
Asylum seekers must be treated as an adult if their physical appearance and demeanour ‘very strongly suggests that they are significantly over 18 years of age’.
Around 6,000 child migrants arrive in the UK every year.
Assessments of physical appearance can include indicators of age such as height, build, facial hair and voice pitch.
When assessing demeanour, officials can take into account observations on the individual’s mannerisms, body posture and eye contact.
Instructions state age assessments cannot always provide the same degree of confidence about treating an individual as an adult or a child as can be provided by reliable documents, adding: ‘To allow for this, the principle of ‘the benefit of the doubt’ is applied.’
Earlier this year, a watchdog report revealed some local authorities had raised concerns the ‘benefit of the doubt’ policy was being applied ‘too readily’ in relation to unaccompanied asylum seeking children.
The report, published in March by the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, cited data indicating that from the start of July 2016 to the end of June 2017, the Home Office had raised 705 age disputes.
Of the 618 resolved, 402 (65%) claimants were found to be over 18 and 216 (35%) were found to be children.
Age verification processes came under scrutiny in 2016 when teenagers were transferred to the UK from Calais following the closure of the ‘Jungle’ refugee camp.
Controversy erupted when Tory MP David Davies claimed some arrivals ‘don’t look like children to me’.
His mother said: ‘They should have done more checks. I blame the Home Office. It was scary because you don’t who this person is. It’s supposed to be safe’.
Beverley Isles, 57, who has a child at the school, said: ‘It’s ridiculous that they let a 30 year old man in. It’s absolutely ridiculous’.
One mother who has a son at the school said: ‘It’s horrible. He wanted an education and he could’ve come in as an adult and got an education. I’m 35 years old and I’m at college studying to be a mental health nurse.
‘I don’t believe this is an isolated issue, they’ve got to look into it a lot more.’
Dorma Banya, 45, another parent at the school, said: ‘It’s not right, it’s the children’s safety. It’s crossed the line.
‘If someone says they are 15 you have to believe them but you don’t know what they are doing there, especially when there are young girls at the school.
‘We don’t know if he was talking to them. It’s not right. I am sure if you talk to people they feel violated.’
Mother-of-two Justyna Kujawska, 34, also from Ipswich, added: ‘The teachers are to blame. He should have been told to leave as soon as he got there. At first I found it funny but then it’s worrying that he managed to stay at the school for so long. How did he get away with that?’
Melissa Tobin, 37, has a son at Halifax Primary School, which feeds into Stoke High School. The 37-year-old from Ipswich said: ‘They should have done more checks.
‘I can’t believe they didn’t know, you could tell by looking at him that he was older. They say the only way they would know is by looking at his teeth, so look at the teeth.’
Kelly McNamee said today: ‘You can’t tell me that the teachers never had any suspicion…He’s clearly an adult’ and Cherry Evans wrote on Facebook: ‘Why was it not reported the first day he was there by staff?? How was it allowed to go on so long? Awful’.
Another Ipswich resident said on Facebook today: ‘Clearly the children can do a better job of guessing an age than the officials’.
Sandy Martin, the Labour MP for Ipswich, said today that the Home Office ‘need to get their act together’ to ensure adults cannot pose as children in the classroom.
Mr Martin said: ‘The Home Office needs to make sure that they are not sending people who are over age to school’.
In Norway all child asylum seekers had their wrists and teeth x-rayed last year because in 2016 around 40 per cent of under-18s arriving in the country were actually found to be over 20.
And hinting at the need for more stringent testing of claims in the UK Mr Martin said: ‘They have the means to do this and they need to do it’.
Today Whitehall sources confirmed that the 6ft 1in pupil, who spoke broken English, was assessed as being aged over 18 in an investigation ordered by the Home Office.
The man is believed to have presented himself as an unaccompanied child when he arrived in the UK having travelled to Britain via Germany from Iran without any paperwork such as a passport or birth certificate.
In a detention centre his age was then assessed by being asked questions by immigration officials.
But he was not subject to a medical examination because these are not automatic and only used when the Home Office say a child refugee’s appearance ‘very strongly suggests that they are significantly over 18 years of age’.
In late September he then started at Stoke High School in Ipswich after being found a family to live with in Suffolk’s county town.
But within six weeks, on the day the man was due to sit a mock GCSE exam, he was pulled out of school over claims he was actually closer to 30.
Home Office officials questioned him again and ruled he was almost certainly an adult without the need for medical tests to help determine his age, such as an X-ray of his teeth.
This suggests that experts believed it was obvious he was over 18 – or the man himself admitted he lied about his age.
The Year 11 pupil who claimed to be aged 15 but looks far older with Facebook posts alleged to show him with a thick beard and sipping beers
Pupils became suspicious when they saw that the clean shaven pupil appeared to have the shadow of a beard on his face.
They then discovered the Facebook profile in his name which described him as having been an architecture student at the Islamic Azad University in Abadan, Iran, before living in Erfurt, Germany.
The pictures on the now deleted profile showed him with a beard and drinking a bottle of beer on a street, and also included an image of the boy who was said to be his younger brother.
Caroline Wilson is the executive principal of Stoke High School – Ormiston Academy, which has 668 students
It was also revealed that the pupil allegedly bombarded a 15-year-old girl classmate with text messages, prompting her to complain to safeguarding staff – because she was worried about his true age.
But the girl was told that there was nothing ‘sinister’ about the texts as they were not of a sexual nature.
When shown the alleged Facebook picture of the pupil with a beard, the teacher allegedly said that people matured at different ages. She stopped receiving messages from him after she complained.
A mother of another pupil said the man had told her son that he was aged 25 and was married with two children when he was asked if he wanted to join in a game of football at break time.
Some outraged parents withdrew their children from the school over the scandal, forcing senior staff to remove the asylum seeker from class.
Mother and fathers claimed children were potentially being put in danger by the presence of a man posing as a boy.
The Home Office has refused to reveal the newly assessed age of the man or any details of his background due to data protection issues.
Officials who rubber-stamped his status as a child now face an investigation into how and why they came to that decision amid claims they just took him at ‘face value’.
The school, whose principal is Caroline Wilson, also faces safeguarding questions.
The Home Office is currently investigating how the man’s claim to be aged 15 came to be believed and he is believed to have been moved from the area.
A Home Office spokesman said: ‘We are fully committed to safeguarding children and are looking into the circumstances of this case to understand how it was handled.
‘Age-disputed cases remain a challenging area of work in which no single assessment technique, or combination of techniques, is likely to determine an individual’s age with precision.
‘In the absence of clear and credible documentary evidence, Home Office staff must rely on physical appearance and demeanour to make an initial assessment on whether a person claiming to be a child is under 18.
‘If an individual is assessed to be under 18, but subsequent concerns about their age are raised – for example by a school – we will act quickly to reconsider the case.’
The spokesman confirmed that asylum seekers claiming to be aged under 18 are believed and treated as children by the Home Office unless they meet one of three criteria.
They are only assessed as adults if there is ‘clear and credible documentary evidence’ that they are, an approved local authority assessment reaches the conclusion or if two immigration officers rule that their ‘physical appearance or demeanour very strongly suggests they are significantly over 18 years of age’.
The man’s brother was also at Stoke High in Ipswich, but the Home Office say they are sure he is a child. He has been moved to another school
In the case of immigration officers making the ruling, at least one of them has to be of Chief Immigration Officer grade or above.
The Home Office spokesperson added: ‘When there is doubt about an individual’s claim to be a child, the individual will be referred to a local authority’s social services department for a careful, case law-compliant age assessment and they will be treated as a child until a decision on their age is made.
‘If an individual is assessed to be over 18, we will process any asylum claim as being made by an adult. If the application is unsuccessful, and appeal rights are exhausted, removal action will be pursued as appropriate.
‘In the absence of documentary evidence, Home Office staff are only able to treat a claimant as an adult if their physical appearance and demeanour very strongly suggest that they are significantly over 18 years of age – and where two officers have reached this conclusion independently.
‘The threshold is set deliberately high so that only those who are very clearly over 18 are assessed as adults.’
The man started at Stoke High School which is run by the Ormiston Academies Trust soon after the start of term in September.
The pupil was removed from the school earlier this month on the day he was due to sit a mock GCSE maths exam and has not been seen there since. The younger pupil who claimed to be his brother was taken out of school at the same time.
The Ormiston Academies Trust confirmed at the time that the pupils were ‘not attending the school’ and that it had asked the Home Office to investigate the case.
The stepfather of a girl in the same class as the pupil said he had gone to the school to complain before the man was removed and had contacted Suffolk Police to make a complaint that a grown man was ‘posing as a pupil’ in her class.
He said: ‘They logged my call and advised me to go back to the school and demand what action they were going to take.
‘I ended up speaking to this teacher who said that the Facebook picture of the boy was a case of mistaken identity.
‘The teacher actually threatened that all the parents who were jumping on the bandwagon could face legal action because complaining about the pupil was a criminal offence. He was basically calling all the parents bullies.
‘The teacher told me that he had children himself and all the paperwork and been looked at for this person and had been passed by the Home Office. I was absolutely livid and was trying to behave myself.
‘He was so ignorant and not really listening to what I was saying. I wanted to kick him up the backside and tell him not to be so naïve. My last words to him were, ‘You have not heard the last about this’.
A spokesman for Suffolk County Council denied that it was involved in the age assessment of the pupil and Suffolk Police said they do not believe there is any police investigation into the case.
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