Refugee crisis: What to do about under-aged brides?

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The refugee crisis in Europe breaks all barriers. Germany alone expects 1.5 million refugees by the end of 2015, twice as much as originally expected, according to leaked government figures. But there is another problem, nobody really knows how to handle the issue of under-aged brides, widely ignored by the media and politicians.

On average, three under-aged brides arrive each week to Holland, according to reports released by the Center against child-and human trafficking (CKM). The TV channel RTV Noord reported about an internal document on the services for immigration and naturalization, according to which 34 under-aged brides have taken refuge, or applied for asylum in Holland. 22 of those girls applied to be re-united with their family, after their husbands arrived in Holland – two of whom where aged between 13 and 14 years of age.

Until a few days ago, a marriage was considered to be legal, as long as the children involved were at least 15 years of age and the marriage was registered in the country of origin. However, due to the increasing amount of refugees arriving in the Netherlands – therefore, increasing the risk of under-aged marriage – the parliament signed a new bill into law, setting the minimum age at 18.

Switzerland also changed its guidelines regarding under-aged marriage in 2012 and does not recognize the marriage of minors. In Germany it gets more complicated. The minors are recognized as so called unaccompanied-minors and are taken into custody of the child protective services, throughout the asylum process the marital-bond, in accordance to German law, can be recognized.

“Each case has to be reviewed on its own,” said Juliane Baer-Henny, Speaker of Civil-Rights of the Justice Department, to the German newspaper „Die Welt“.

So far it is unclear how many cases exist in Germany, neither the Interior ministry, nor the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have statistics on the situation. Due to overcrowded refugee-centers it often takes months to file for asylum, and a couple of more months until it is processed.

According to the organization ‘Care’, more than 39 000 children are forced to marry against his/her will each day. Within Syrian refugee camps in Jordan, every third girl is an under-aged bride, according to reports by Unicef released in 2014.

Author: Nicolaj Gericke



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