Hundreds of adult refugees bring child brides to Europe and authorities have a hard time protecting the minors from their “spouses.”
An internal investigation by the Swedish migration agency released Tuesday found 132 cases of underaged asylum seekers in the country still living with adult spouses.
“Our focus has to be to protect the children,” Cecilia Borin, a spokeswoman for the Swedish migration agency, said in a press release. “We will look at the results from the report and prioritize these individuals in our work.”
The identified cases include 129 girls and three boys. Almost all of the children are from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. The migration office estimates the number to be much higher in reality, and it is only based on the findings from a small sample.
Other countries have been battling the same problem. Denmark started separating child brides from their husbands in January after they found 14-year-old girls living with their adult husbands.
“People who who seek asylum with a marriage to a child should straight up get denied,” Naser Khader, a conservative member of the Danish Parliament, told Danish news outlet Metroxpress in January.
A Danish imam defended the legitimacy of child marriages because it creates a “safer situation” for a family in times of “violence and uncertainty.”
“Even if the man is twice as old, they have built a family and we cannot destroy family life,” Imam Oussama El-Saadi said in a February interview with Metroxpress.
In the Netherlands, a loophole allowed the practice until legislators changed the law to make it illegal in January. Germany treats married refugees under the age of 18 as “unaccompanied children” and placed them in separate youth facilities.
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