The Home Office is planning to deport young unaccompanied refugees to Rwanda based only on a cursory estimate of their age by an immigration official.

Now the Human for Rights Network is threatening legal action against the government, warning that such superficial assessments have led to many child refugees being housed and treated inappropriately as adults.

“For years now this government has forced thousands of unaccompanied children into harm’s way, placing them in adult accommodation, camps and adult prisons as a result of its flawed policy of determining age at post of entry,” Maddie Harris, the Network’s director, told the Guardian. “Now these children face an extreme and additional threat: forced removal to Rwanda.” Ms Harris added that many refugee children were now terrified of being sent to Rwanda, while some felt suicidal.

The children’s commissioner for England Dame Rachel de Souza, said last year that the majority of those who claimed to be children and whose age is disputed are shown to be children when more detailed assessments are carried out. According to the Refugee Council, in 2021 94 per cent of young people referred to its services who were initially assessed as adults by immigration staff were subsequently found to be children.