Child brides from Syria are turning up in refugee centers in the Netherlands, and Dutch authorities are at a loss on how to deal with the problem. Social workers are faced with a horrifying dilemma: return girls as young as 13 to their middle-aged husbands and, in the process, turn a blind eye to a sex crime, or break up families.
As many as 20 girls, some as young as 13, have turned up in Dutch asylum centers with their much-older husbands. Although Dutch law doesn’t allow girls to marry until 16, it also recognizes foreign marriages of younger girls if the marriage is legal in the bride and groom’s country of origin. The girls have been reunited with their husbands, according to leaked documents obtained by BBC News.
One such Syrian child bride is 14-year-old Fatema Alkasem, who was nine months pregnant when she disappeared from a Dutch refugee center two months ago. Police are concerned about her welfare and that of her baby, who has undoubtedly been born since then. Police believe she may have been taken out of the country, and she’s considered a missing person, according to the Independent.
— Athar Ahmad (@AtharAAhmad) October 20, 2015
Dutch politician Attje Kuiken is appalled, and wants the law updated to protect refugee child brides from what she sees as sexual abuse.
“A 12-year-old girl with a 40-year-old-man — that is not a marriage, that is abuse, We’re talking about really young children, girls 12, 13 years old. I want to protect these children. The government should take them into foster care and protect them, because before the new law comes into force, they can still be subject to abuse.”
In the Tweet below, translated via Google Translate, Kuiken expresses her concerns about the practice of child brides taking place in the Netherlands.
Einde praktijk kindbruidjes Wij vinden de praktijk van kindbruidjes onacceptabel. Kinderen horen kind te zijn,… http://t.co/LnsKmfX4nk
— Attje Kuiken (@attjekuiken) October 14, 2015
“End the practice of child brides. We find the practice of child brides unacceptable. Children need to be children.”
Dutch immigration minister Klaas Dijkhoff is working on getting his country’s immigration laws updated to only recognize foreign marriages if both partners are over the age of 18.
“At the moment we do have a problem with the bracket between 15 and 18. We want to be more strict, [and in the future we will] not recognize the relationship… So if you’re a man with an underage wife, you won’t make it in time to bring over your underage wife.”
The new laws are expected to take effect in December.
The problem of Syrian child brides is one of many that Western governments are grappling with as they attempt to take in refugees from Syria. As hundreds of thousands of refugees flee Syria’s drawn-out and bloody civil war, they’re desperately trying to enter countries that may be unwilling, or unable, to take them in.
Syrian refugees who have been lucky enough to escape refugee centers and settle in the West are finding that their religion and culture are juxtaposing against Western culture in uncomfortable, and even illegal, ways, as highlighted by the problem of child brides in the Netherlands.
As previously reported by the Inquisitr, other Syrian refugees are finding that their lives once they’ve settled in the West haven’t been what they were expecting. In Uruguay, for example, local Uruguayans have become fed up with refugees’ complaints, while refugees are complaining that they can’t make ends meet in a country with limited job opportunities. To make matters worse, the Uruguayans can’t — or won’t — provide the refugees with the proper documents that will allow them to leave and attempt to settle elsewhere.
The Obama administration has announced a plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees in the United States.
What do you think the Netherlands should do about the problem of child brides from Syria turning up in their refugee centers? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
[Image courtesy of: Getty Images / Paula Bronstein]