When a “teenager” from Iran joined students at Stoke High School in Ipswich (a county town of Suffolk, England), students and parents immediately noticed something was off.
The alleged 15-year-old boy, Siavash, was 6’1”, had stubble, a large Adam’s apple, and a hairline that some viewed as receding. Students and parents believed the “teen” was closer to 30 than 15.
When parents began complaining that an adult man was in school with their underage children, they say their concerns were “dismissed as racist,” according to the Daily Mail.
“I went in [to] complain but I was fobbed off. They are deluded and seem more worried about how the bloke might feel,” a father of two teenage students told the Mail. “I am not aware of this lad having done anything inappropriate, but it’s clearly wrong that he should be in a class with children.”
Another parent said she was told the man sat on a bench during lunch near teenage girls, “just looking.”
One student said Siavash started FaceTiming a female student, “sending her messages, asking how close she lived to the school.” The student took the messages to school officials but was told there was nothing wrong with them, according to the Mail.
It turns out, Siavash actually was an adult, and was removed from the school. He had told the school he fled from Iran and came to the United Kingdom with his little brother, who authorities believe actually is 12 years old. Siavash was seeking a free education while posing as a teenager.
As the Mail points out, Siavash benefited from Britain’s generous asylum system, which has been found to be abused by those seeking a free education by posing as minors.
Britain’s system, under which around 3,000 unaccompanied youngsters — around 80 per cent of whom are male — claim asylum each year, came under intense scrutiny in 2016 when a busload of alleged teenagers arrived in Croydon after being transferred to the UK from Calais.
By claiming to be children, the new arrivals were entitled not just to free education, but also to places in local authority children’s homes (in areas with high migrant populations such as Kent, up to half the places in such homes are taken by unaccompanied asylum seekers).
Yet critics have long pointed out that those rules also create an incentive for adult migrants to simply destroy ID papers and pose as vulnerable children. Indeed, several of the young men who disembarked from the coaches in Croydon appeared to be square-jawed men in their 20s or 30s.
After this controversy, the asylum rules were tightened, and in the following year, 705 age disputes were raised. Sixty-five percent of the 618 resolved disputes found claimants over the age of 18 (who were mostly male) pretending to be children. Those handling asylum claims are now told to treat seekers who appear to be adults as adults if they lack reliable documentation, though when they are unsure, they are supposed to give the seekers the benefit of the doubt.