A call to end the recruitment of minors by the British armed forces

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recruit minors armyDavid Gee is co-author of the report, One Step Forward: The case for ending recruitment of minors by the British armed forces, published by ForcesWatch and Child Soldiers International last week.

The British armed forces enlist around 22,000 people each year to replace personnel who leave; of these, around 4,700 are under eighteen years of age。

The One Step Forwardreport shows that recruiting minors is highly costly, due to the legal requirements governing their recruitment and deployment, and leads to operational pressures. It also argues that it does not serve the best interests of young people. 

Gee continues:

“With an hour between trains in Bangor recently, I walked around the town to get a feel for the place. The council had had a go at brushing up the high street, but a fair few shops were lying empty and youngsters were hanging about at a loose end. The recession had clearly paid a visit, but around the corner one shop window still looked bright. Healthy, attractive poster-faces beamed out at passers-by: a chef, an electrician, an engineer.

young british soldier

“This was the armed forces recruiting office. Its appeal to a sixteen-year-old, particularly one who struggled at school, is obvious: join the army, learn a trade, find your dignity, belong to something.

“In reality, the army isn’t a glorified version of the social services offering free white-water rafting holidays to disaffected youth; it’s there to fight a war in Afghanistan. A boy leaving school for the army without good GCSEs is most likely to end up driving lorries or firing a rifle, rather than learning a technical trade such as fixing helicopters. He can’t be sent to war until he’s eighteen, but, having enlisted at sixteen, he is still more likely than those joining when older to be killed or to return home traumatised by his war experience.

“Last week we released our report calling on the Ministry of Defence to follow most of the rest of the world by recruiting adults only into the armed forces. The case for this is strong. The current policy not only encourages young people to disadvantage themselves in the long term by coming out of the education system early, it is also extremely expensive because younger recruits take so long to train.

“As the report made headlines, many interviewers asked, ‘But doesn’t the army save so many young people from lives of unemployment and petty crime?’ . . . He concludes that:

“. . . We, the adult generation, are teaching our children how to kill people on our behalf. To my (Quaker) faith, this radically diminishes us all as human beings”.

the Friend, 3 May 2013

See also Quaker Michael Bartlet in the Guardian, 2011

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