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Underage Married Migrant Couples Want German Authorities to Back Off

© Flickr / DFIDSyrian and Lebanese girls huddle round in a group discussion about early marriage at a community centre in southern Lebanon.
Syrian and Lebanese girls huddle round in a group discussion about early marriage at a community centre in southern Lebanon. - Sputnik International
German authorities have created a working group dealing with the issue of underage marriages among migrants. According to German Minister of Justice Heiko Maas, the group will develop a certain strategy within a few weeks, even though, as some experts argue, most couples targeted view the group's activities suspiciously and want to be left alone.

According to official data, there are about 1,500 married minors among migrants residing in Germany. A total of 361 of them have not yet turned 14.
The majority of such couples originally come from Syria and other countries, such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Bulgaria, Poland, Romania and Greece, the German Ministry of Interior reported on Friday.

"According to the current German legislation, marriages contracted abroad can be recognized in Germany when they don't contradict our values and don't violate human rights. In each case, the authorities make a separate decision. There are no common regulations, so far," representative of the Ministry of Justice in North Rhine-Westphalia, Marcus Strunk, told Sputnik.

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Most teenage girls are married to men much older than them, and one can assume that in many cases, they were forced into marriage, Strunk argued.

"The results of various studies, including those of UNICEF, show that such marriages are often contracted under very adverse circumstances, in some cases include violence, and negatively affect minors," he added.

However, German expert Sabine Schick, who has experience working in the Cologne juvenile system, can't confirm the claim that the majority of girls were forced into marriage.

"A lot of adolescent girls who came from Syria got married at home and had been living with their husbands for many years. Often, the marriage took place with the consent of the parents. According to our data, there are no girls under our supervision who entered into marriage under pressure," Schick said.

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At the same time, the expert admits that one can't be sure that minors tell the truth when talking to the service's staff.

According to Schick, a persistent concern of the authorities sometimes stumbles upon a misunderstanding among such couples. Some underage females aggressively respond to detailed inquiries and view offers to place them separately from their husbands suspiciously.

Thus, if there are no signs of coercion in the couple, the teen girls are placed together with their husbands.

"There are social workers and teachers on the ground who are in contact with these people. They monitor their wards. If there are any violations, we will immediately take measures to protect adolescents, even if it is against their will," Schick concluded.

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