The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child condemned Spain for the violation of children’s rights in two cases concerning age assessment of unaccompanied children. The Committee denounced the lack of legal guarantees and the insufficient consideration of the documentation provided by the applicants and ordered the provision of legal representation during age assessment and the compensation of the applicants.

The first case involved J.A.B., a Cameroonian national, who arrived to Ceuta in 2016. As he had official documentation issued by the authorities of Cameroon, he declined an age assessment, which has a significant margin of error. He was denied representation by a guardian or lawyer. The prosecutor refused to accept the validity of the documents and the applicant received a removal order.

The second case involved A.L., an Algerian national, who arrived to Almería, Spain by boat in 2017. Upon stating that he was a minor he underwent an age test, which estimated that he was “older than 19”. A.L. was subsequently detained in the Detention Centre for Foreigners (CIE) of Aluche, Madrid, pending his return to Algeria. The NGO Fundación Raíces, who supported the applicant, received copies of his identity documents from his family in Algeria and submitted them to the Court of Instruction of Almería.

The Committee recalled the fundamental importance of age assessments to ensure the best interests of the child are met. In cases of uncertainty, the individual must be given the benefit of the doubt. With regard to legal representation, the Committee held that legal guardians or representatives are an essential guarantee during the age assessment process and its denial constituted a violation of their right to be heard and Articles 3 and 12 of the Convention of the Rights of the Child.

The Committee also notes that the State party did not respect the identity of the applicant as they failed to analyse the validity of the documents provided and did not check the data with the authorities of the country of origin, a violation of article 8 of the Convention. It held that the State now had an obligation to avoid committing similar violations in the future, to ensure the age assessments of unaccompanied children are in conformity with the Convention and that the procedures take into account the documentation presented and that those affected receive legal representation.

The two cases add to Committee’s recent condemnations of Spain for push-backs (“devolución en caliente”) of unaccompanied children at the border.

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Photo: (CC) International Federation of the Red Cross, April 2015

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin . You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.