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‘Age determination’ is the process by which a person’s age is assessed. In the immigration context, it refers to the processes used by the country receiving asylum seekers to determine whether a person is a minor or an adult. In Australia, the role of assessing the age of children is performed by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (the Department).
The decision about whether or not an asylum seeker is a child or an adult has important implications on the way in which they are treated through the refugee determination process. The most pertinent of those implications, for the time being, is whether the asylum seeker is detained on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea or in the more ‘family friendly’ facilities on Nauru.
The age determination report was prepared by members of Young Liberty for Law Reform’s Refugee and Asylum Seeker Pod. The Report raises a number of issues with the Department’s current approach to age determination. Some issues identified in the report include the failure of the Department to afford asylum seeker’s the ‘benefit of the doubt’ during age determinations as required by international law and ensure that age determination officers have the appropriate qualifications, experience and training to be making age determinations.
The report also recommends some affordable and easily implementable safeguards that the Department could adopt in order to ensure greater compliance with international law. These recommendations include: