Abuse fears after child brides found living with older husbands in Scandinavian asylum centers

© Alkis Konstantinidis
Child brides are being allowed to stay with their older husbands in some Scandinavian asylum centers, it has emerged. Authorities defend the practice by saying husbands may be the only person brides know and trust, but others suspect possible child abuse.

In Norway, 31,000 asylum seekers arrived during 2015. Ten of those migrants were under the age of 16 and married, and four had kids, according to the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI), as cited by Reuters.

Some of them “live with their partners,” an email from the institution said.

"Minors seeking asylum are in a difficult situation where they have left their homeland, family and friends, and the partner they have traveled with can be the only person they know and trust in Norway," said Heidi Vibeke Pedersen, a top UDI official.

Activists are furious over the fact that those who arrived back in 2015 have been allowed to stay where they are.

"To place them with their partner in facilities rigged for adults is not acceptable," Camilla Kayed, of the Ombudsman for Children Norway, an official watchdog for children's rights, told Reuters.

However, Oslo did not ratify conventions by the Council of Europe aimed at avoiding child abuse and exploitation.

In most Scandinavian countries, the lowest age of consent is 15 – in Norway, it’s 16 – while 18 is the minimum age for marriage.

Norway isn’t the only Scandinavian country to have such issues, though: after a review in February, dozens of young female asylum seekers were discovered living with older men in Danish refugee centers.

At the time, Danish authorities reacted strongly to the news, with a spokeswoman for the Integration Ministry saying that couples younger than 18 would be banned from living together unless they have “exceptional reasons.”

A month earlier, at least 70 married girls under the age of 18 were found in asylum centers in Sweden, including major cities like Stockholm and Malmo.

"This is worrying. We know that children fleeing [their home countries] are very vulnerable both for human trafficking and to become targets of forced marriage," Sweden's Ombudsman for Children, Fredrik Malmberg, wrote in a blog.