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Government 'rejected help to check ages of refugees'

By David Hughes

Published 24/10/2016

Claims: David Simmonds
Claims: David Simmonds

The Home Office snubbed an offer of expert help to establish the ages of refugees seeking to come to the UK from the so-called Jungle camp in Calais, it has been claimed.

Specialist social workers were offered to the Home Office in August to help prepare for the arrival of refugees from the controversial French camp, which is set to be cleared this week.

But the Local Government Association (LGA) said officials did not take up the offer and only started asking for specialist help on Friday as concerns were raised by some MPs about the age of the refugees arriving in Britain.

The Sunday Telegraph said councils had offered to send social workers to Calais to carry out age checks but were ignored.

David Simmonds, chairman of the LGA's asylum, refugee and migration taskforce told the newspaper: "We made the offer in August and the Home Office didn't take it up at the time. They only started asking for social workers with age assessment experience on Friday."

He added: "The offer was not taken up quickly enough. I understand that on Friday the Home Office started asking Kent for social workers with experience in age assessment. But we offered our help three months ago. I am aware they were trying to talk to people on Friday to get help after all."

A Home Office source insisted the support had not been needed when it was offered in August.

Some of the first wave of arrivals provoked speculation over their ages amid suggestions some appeared to look much older than teenagers and Tory MP David Davies suggested using dental checks to establish how old they were. Screens have since been used to keep the refugees hidden from public view after arriving at a Home Office building in London.

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