“Imposter-Children” in the UK Refugee Status Determination Process


  • Stephanie J. Silverman University of Ottawa and University of Toronto




United Kingdom, Afghan refugees, refugee status determination, credibility, age assessments, unaccompanied minors, imposter-child, gender


This article describes and analyzes an emerging problematic in the asylum and immigration debate, which I cynically dub the “imposter-child” phenomenon. My preliminary exploration maps how the imposter-child relates to and potentially influences the politics and practices of refuge status determination in the United Kingdom. I argue that the “imposter-child” is being discursively constructed in order to justify popular and official suspicion of spontaneously arriving child asylum-seekers in favour of resettling refugees from camps abroad. I also draw connections between the discursive creation of “imposter-children” and the diminishment of welfare safeguarding for young people. Further complicating this situation is a variety of sociocultural factors in both Afghanistan and the United Kingdom, including the adversarial UK refugee status determination process, uncertainty around how the United Kingdom can“prove” an age, and a form of “triple discrimination” experienced by Afghan male youth. Through unearthing why the “imposter-child” is problematic, I also query why it is normatively accepted that non-citizens no longer deserve protection from the harshest enforcement once they “age out” of minor status.


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Author Biography

Stephanie J. Silverman, University of Ottawa and University of Toronto

SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow, GSPIA, Ottawa 2015 Bora Laskin National Fellow in Human Rights Research Adjunct Professor, Centre for Ethics, Trinity College, Toronto



How to Cite

Silverman, S. J. (2016). “Imposter-Children” in the UK Refugee Status Determination Process. Refuge: Canada’s Journal on Refugees, 32(3), 30–39. https://doi.org/10.25071/1920-7336.40371

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