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Case details

R (on the application of BF (Eritrea)) (Respondent) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Appellant)

Case ID: UKSC 2019/0147

Case summary


(1) What is the test that the court must apply to determine the lawfulness of policy issued by HM Government in relation to the treatment of asylum seekers who claim to be children.
(2) Whether the Home Department’s policy relating to an initial assessment of the age of asylum-seekers claiming to be children is lawful.


BF is a national of Eritrea and an asylum seeker who presented himself to police claiming that he was 16 years old. The immigration officers who saw him believed him to be substantially over 18, describing his physical appearance as that of an adult in his mid-twenties. He had previously claimed asylum in Italy, where he had given his age as 26. BF was held in immigration detention pending his return to Italy and continued to claim that he was a minor. Two formal age assessments found him to be an adult, but a third found him to be 16. Save in limited circumstances, it is unlawful for the Home Department to detain an unaccompanied child. BF applied for judicial review of the decision to detain him on the ground that the Home Department’s policy, which provided that a person claiming to be a child could be treated as an adult if immigration officers considered that their physical appearance very strongly suggested that they are significantly over 18, is unlawful.
BF’s judicial review claim was rejected by the Upper Tribunal. The Court of Appeal allowed BF’s appeal by a majority. The SSHD appeals the Court of Appeal’s decision.

Judgment appealed

[2019] EWCA Civ 872



Secretary of State for the Home Department


BF (Eritrea)



Lord Reed, Lord Lloyd-Jones, Lord Briggs, Lord Sales, Lord Burnett

Hearing start date

16 March 2021

Hearing finish date

16 March 2021

Watch hearing
16 Mar 2021 Morning session Afternoon session

Judgment details

Judgment date

30 July 2021

Neutral citation

[2021] UKSC 38

Watch Judgment summary
30 Jul 2021 Judgment summary

Reporting Restrictions

R (on the application of BF (Eritrea)) (Respondent) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Appellant)

Case ID: UKSC 2019/0147

There are strict reporting restrictions in place, because:

THE COURT ORDERED that no one shall publish or reveal the name or address of the Respondent who is the subject of these proceedings or publish or reveal any information which would be likely to lead to the identification of the Respondent or of any member of his family in connection with these proceedings.