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The BBC's Greg Barrow
"Britain finds itself in the company of African nations like Sierra Leone and Sudan"
 real 28k

Rory Mungoven, report co-author
"The longer conflicts drag on the more likely children are to be involved"
 real 28k

Ishmael Beah
was recruited to fight in Sierra Leone when he was just 14
 real 28k

Tuesday, 12 June, 2001, 00:45 GMT 01:45 UK
UK 'shamed' over teenage soldiers
Army soldiers
Too young to fight? More young people are joining the Army
By the BBC's Greg Barrow

Britain has been criticised in a new report which identifies countries that routinely recruit child soldiers.

The Child Soldiers Global Report, released on Tuesday, identifies the UK Government as the only country in Europe that still recruits 16-year-olds, and routinely sends soldiers as young as 17 into battle.

The report goes on to name and shame countries which it says are guilty of recruiting child soldiers under the age of 18.

Most of the worst abuses are found in Africa and Asia.

But groups campaigning against the deployment of child soldiers say their work would be made easier if Britain set an example to the rest of the world and raised its recruitment age.
Child soldiers in Sierra Leone
Children as young as 10 are recruited for civil wars in Africa

The country finds itself in the company of African nations like Sierra Leone and Sudan for bringing "children" into the ranks of the armed forces.

The report also notes that Britain is almost alone among industrialised nations in recruiting 16-year-olds.

Although new recruits do not immediately go into combat, 17-year-olds have served in the Falklands conflict and during the Gulf War.

So far there is little sign of any change in the British Army.

Increase in young soldiers

The report notes that recruitment of 16- and 17-year-olds is actually increasing at a time when the British Army is finding it difficult to fill its ranks with older recruits.

It says aggressive advertising campaigns and recruitment drives have helped boost the ranks of young soldiers.

Britain was criticised on the same issue at a European conference in Berlin in 1999.

The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers - an international coalition of pressure groups - was seeking to raise the minimum age for recruiting and participating in armed conflict to 18.

Young people in the UK cannot drink or vote before they turn 18, and in most police forces in the UK they people cannot serve before they are 21.

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See also:

18 Oct 99 | Europe
UK slated for young soldiers
20 Aug 99 | South Asia
UN fears for Afghan child soldiers
25 Jun 99 | Africa
The child victims of war
22 Jun 98 | South Asia
Sri Lanka's children of war
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