UK under fire for recruiting an ‘army of children’

27/05/2014 14:38

Source: Independent

UK under fire for recruiting an 'army of children'

More than one in 10 new Army recruits are boy soldiers of just 16 years old, according to the latest figures released by the Ministry of Defence. And more than one in four of all new Army recruits are under 18 – too young to be sent into combat.

The figures, released last week, have sparked renewed criticism of the British Army’s use of boy soldiers. Following an outcry over the deployment of 17-year-olds to the Gulf War in 1991, and to Kosovo in 1999, the Army amended its rules stopping soldiers under 18 from being sent on operations where there was a possibility of fighting. Despite this, at least 20 soldiers aged 17 are known to have served in Afghanistan and Iraq due to errors by the MoD.

Critics claim the figures mean Britain stands alongside some of the world’s most repressive regimes by recruiting children into the armed forces – among under 20 countries, including North Korea and Iran, that allow 16-year-olds to join up. They accused the MoD of deliberately targetting teenagers not old enough to vote in a bid to boost recruitment.

There are more than 1,700 teenagers in the armed forces below voting age. The vast majority of 16- and 17-year-olds are in the Army, according to the 2014 annual personnel report. And the proportion of Army recruits aged just 16 has risen from 10 per cent in 2012-13 to 13 per cent in 2013-14. Many of them would have begun the enlistment process when they were 15, according to campaigners.

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