Vulnerable children are slipping through the cracks of a broken asylum system — just like I did

I came to this country fleeing war and persecution. When I first arrived, I thought my suffering would be over, but what I didn’t know was that the UK would deny me the right to be a child.

After taking one look at me and refusing to believe my age, the Home Office changed my birthday and put me into accommodation with adults. I didn’t feel safe, I was scared and was thinking about all the things that could happen to me.

I don’t think any young person should be put in this experience. No young person should ever have to suffer. I was alone without my family and only 16 years old. I was so frightened. But those in charge just didn’t seem to care.

The Home Office disputed my age and I didn’t have any papers on me — I simply had no way to prove to them I was under 18. They determined age based on your appearance and behaviour – how you look, how you dress, or even because of things like if you can cook. If they do decide that you are over 18 you will be moved straight into adult accommodation. This is what happened to me.

I’m worried that others will face the same treatment that I did. Many children, some as young as 14 years old, are forced to share rooms with adults. In 2022 alone, over 800 people were put in adult accommodation or detention. It puts children at risk of exploitation and abuse, or the misery of detention. These are young people who have fled for their lives.

And now, things are getting worse. The government’s sinister new plans will cause even more damage to refugee children. The introduction of scientific age assessments will see refugees subjected to X-rays of teeth or wrist bones, and MRI scans of the collar and knee bones. These procedures are needless and inaccurate. And if children withhold their consent for these harmful methods they can barely understand, they will be considered ‘untrustworthy’.

Since I’ve been here, government policies are just getting worse and worse. Like the Home Office painting over cartoons in refugee reception centres. Instead of being cruel, I wish the politicians would refocus their efforts on creating a compassionate asylum system. Children’s rights are universal, and all children should be protected regardless of where they come from or how they got here.

I’ve been able to rebuild my life in this country. Thanks to the kindness and protection of the people I’ve met here. Now, I stand up for the rights of young refugees by campaigning against child detention and the harmful impact of age assessments. It’s time for the people in charge to abandon this brutality and instead provide a welcoming, safe space for children to be children. They all deserve the chance to recover and rebuild their lives. is the UK’s leading digital-only political website, providing comprehensive coverage of UK politics. Subscribe to our daily newsletter here.