At risk of violating data protection rules
9th March 2010: The local authorities are at risk of finding themselves in the dock for violating data protection rules.
Approximately 50 per cent of all local authorities face the risk by passing on information on unaccompanied asylum-seeking children to the immigration officials.
A startling revelation to this effect has been made in a report by campaign group Action on Rights for Children (Arch). It found that children’s social services were regularly passing on information from age assessments to the UK Border Agency. This was more than what they were required to reveal.
Describing it as the violation of the data protection rules, Arch says children face the prospect of deportation, if even slight inconsistencies are found between age assessment interviews and initial immigration interviews.
Quoting the example of a 17-year-old girl, Arch said she claimed in her initial interview she left her country to avoid a forced marriage. After she failed to mention this in her age assessment, the issue was picked up by the UKBA, which said the inconsistency damaged her credibility.
Home Office figures show 10,355 age-disputed cases where assessment procedures were carried out between 2004 and 2008.
Elaborating on the findings, director of Arch Terry Dowty said the UKBA is using data it almost certainly shouldn’t have to decide asylum cases. Everyone is entitled to data protection rights, including unaccompanied asylum seekers.
Arch’s survey of 120 local authorities revealed 54 councils provide UKBA with full age assessments. Another 13 provide full assessments, if requested. As many as seven claim they obtain the consent of the child or their legal representative. Two seek legal advice.
Just 15 say they do not provide the full assessment, while remaining 29 decide on a case-by-case basis.
Dowty says the children often don’t realise the implications of not saying something in their reception interview that they later divulge in a more relaxed conversation with a social worker. They can then find that it is being used against them.