MPs want Senate to quickly pass child bride asylum law

Members of Parliament in the Tweede Kamer, the lower House of Dutch Parliament, have appealed to their colleagues in the upper house to quickly address the issue of age limits for marriages abroad with regard to their recognition in the Netherlands. The issue grew in urgency in the Netherlands as reports surfaced about being among a group of potential asylum seekers wanting refuge in the northern European nation.

The amendment that stands before the Eerste Kamer, the upper house, wants to raise the recognised legal age for arranged marriages to 18. The issue is not expected to be heard until the Senate reconvenes on November 24, which could bump the final approval and implementation to January 2016 at the earliest.

Justice and Security Secretary Klaas Dijkhoff said that the he could legally do very little for brides between the ages of 15 and 17 years old, as their marriages are recognised in the Netherlands, according to broadcaster NOS. The country currently acknowledges foreign marriages with a minimum age of 15 years old.

He added that removing child brides from their husbands was a challenging and complicated task, as girls often deny that their marriage was the result of extreme duress, where a refusal to marry could leave them stranded in Syria. Duress is one condition the Netherlands may use to deny acceptance of a foreign marriage.

Parties including the ruling right-left coalition of the VVD and PvdA are pressing the issue, along with the centrist D66 and the anti-Islam, anti-refugee PVV, all of whom want the amended law to be quickly heard in the Eerste Kamer.