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Nearly 1,500 child marriages on the books in Germany

September 9, 2016

There are more than 1,000 underaged, married foreign nationals living in Germany. These include not only refugees, but children from other EU countries as well.

Nigeria Proteste gegen Kinderehe
Image: picture alliance/AP Photo

Germany's Central Register of Foreign Nationals published statistics on Friday that raised alarm bells across the country: There are 1,475 children, foreign nationals living in Germany, listed as "married" on their official paperwork. Even more troubling, said the office, was the likelihood that the actual number is much higher.

The report came at the behest of the Green party and was published by several outlets owned by the Essener Funke Mediengruppe. It revealed, unsurprisingly, that the vast majority of those stuck in underage marriage were girls (1,152). And while most of the couples came from refugee populations who have fled from the Middle East, many came from fellow EU-member states.

The most highly represented country of origin was Syria (664). There were also many from Afghanistan (157) and Iraq (100), but also on the list were European countries like Bulgaria (65), Poland (41), Romania (33) and Greece (32).

While more than two-thirds of those registered as married are between 16 and 18, there are 361 children under the age of 14 legally married and living in Germany.

Refugee crisis compounds problem

Child marriage has proven a legal conundrum in Germany in the wake of the refugee crisis. While federal law prohibits marriage under 18 (although 16 and up is allowed in certain exceptions), there is also legal precedent stipulating that marriages performed abroad are legal if they were legal in the country in which they were carried out.

Last week Justice Minister Heiko Maas formed a working group to try and come up with legislation to tackle the problem. Many lawmakers have called for an outright ban on child marriage, even if it was permissible in the country of origin, due to the prevalence of young girls being forced to marry older men.

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es/jil (epd, KNA)