Legal claims from refugees and migrants accused of lying about their age are costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of pounds.
The cases arise when lawyers challenge age checks by social workers who judge 'child' migrants to be adults. Cases can drag on for as long as three years.
A Daily Mail investigation reveals that Kent County Council alone has paid out over £300,000 on 25 cases in the past four years.
Legal claims from refugees and migrants accused of lying about their age are costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of pounds. (File image of migrants being picked up while crossing the English Channel)
Of 75 migrants given age checks in 2018 and 2019, 31 were judged to be adults.
The highest assessed age was 25. In a week when the annual number of cross-Channel boat migrants surged past 7,500, it can also be revealed that:
The figures were obtained by the Mail under freedom of information laws. Thirteen of the Kent cases are ongoing, with the majority of the remainder struck out, withdrawn or settled out of court.
If a refugee does not have proof of age documents a Home Office agent will make a decision based on physical appearance and demeanour.
Unless the claimant appears significantly over 18, they will be treated as children until age-assessed by social workers. Being under 18 entitles them to preferential treatment.
Natalie Elphicke, the MP for Dover, said: 'No child or young person should be making the perilous small boat crossings across the English Channel in the first place.
A Daily Mail investigation reveals that Kent County Council alone has paid out over £300,000 on 25 cases in the past four years. (File image of suspected migrants near Dover, Kent)
'Those who deliberately lie about their age in order to play the system should face criminal consequences.
'The French must do more with the tens of millions of pounds paid over by the British taxpayer to protect abandoned migrant children and keep them out of the hands of the trafficking gangs.
A pupil? That balding man looks 40, says worried mum
This asylum seeker was said to have travelled alone to the UK without paperwork, before joining a school in Coventry, earlier this month
A pupil 'who looks about 40' with a receding hairline sparked a row between his school and concerned parents yesterday – after he was enrolled in a class of 15-year-olds.
The asylum seeker was said to have travelled alone to the UK without paperwork, before joining the school in Coventry, earlier this month.
But concerns were raised after a girl at the school shared his picture on social networking app Snapchat and questioned his age.
The picture, which has been pixelated to protect the individual's identity, was eventually seen by the girl's mother who called into the school to discuss her concerns, The Sun reported.
The mother told teachers: 'You can't really blame the children [for talking about it] – he looks about 40.'
The school has said it has managed to verify the age of the pupil, believed to be from Gambia, West Africa, but could not explain how.
'They should be taking children into care in Calais – not letting them board dangerous dinghies brought into Dover.'
The 7,500 successful Channel crossings this year amount to four times the figure for the whole of last year.
The French are asking for another £30million to stop people-smuggling despite receiving £14.7million in 2014, £99million in 2015, £45.5million in 2018 and £5.5million last year.
Tim Loughton, a Conservative member of the Commons home affairs committee, said: 'People are rightly angered when they see our hospitality being abused by people who then turn out to be adults and don't qualify for the support that we generously give to children.
'We need to find ways to tighten up on the checks that we can.'
He added: 'We've spent a fortune on beefing-up security on French soil. Rather than throw good money after bad, the French have got to change their ways and intercept these boats.'
A letter from Xavier Bertrand, president of the Hauts-de-France region, raised questions about where some of the UK money had gone.
He also warned that lax British labour laws made it is easier for refugees and migrants to find work on the black market.
The politician added: 'Home Secretary Priti Patel pledged to make the English Channel 'unviable' for illegal crossings.
One of the most efficient measures she could take to fulfil this promise would be to create a system of compulsory national identity cards.'
He said more than 100 smuggler networks had been smashed since 2016 and that this has pushed more of the criminal operations into Belgium and the Netherlands.
According to the letter, which has been obtained by the Mail, around £425,269 was spent on equipment for French border force guards, including a '4x4, all-road motorbikes, drones, night-vision binoculars, thermal cameras, infrared glasses'.
Mr Bertrand pointed out that despite the UK's contributions, Mayor of Calais Natacha Bouchart was forced to deploy the city's own police to monitor the coast 'due to the lack of sufficient mobile police forces'.
In May, the Mail revealed that French naval ships were escorting migrant boats into British waters without challenging them.
French patrols do prevent boats from crossing, but sometimes more make it across than are stopped.
Kent council said the increase in age disputes was the result of a rule change.
A Home Office spokesman said: 'We are fixing the asylum system by creating one which is firmer and fairer. It will be compassionate to those who need our help, but stop the exploitation of the broken system – including those adults who aim to pass themselves off as children.' (Picture posed by models)
A spokesman added: 'As Kent is home to the shortest Channel crossing route, KCC receives a disproportionately large number of child migrants entering one single local authority and therefore undertakes more age assessments in comparison to other UK local authorities and bears the subsequent financial liabilities including extensive legal fees for which the council receives no government funding,'
A Home Office spokesman said: 'We are fixing the asylum system by creating one which is firmer and fairer.
'It will be compassionate to those who need our help, but stop the exploitation of the broken system – including those adults who aim to pass themselves off as children.'
Age assessments involve an interview with two social workers, usually with an interpreter.
Official guidance states that 'simple, open-ended questions should generally be used, and you should ensure that questions are not confusing, repetitive or oppressive'.
No physical examinations are permitted but appearance should not be the sole factor.