HUNDREDS of 17-year-old girls have been brought to Australia to get married under a government visa program.
Figures show that more than two hundred 17-year-old girls were granted prospective spouse visas over the past five years – a figure child safety campaigners branded as shocking.
Hundreds more 18-, 19-, and 20-year-old women also received the visas after being sponsored by older men. The majority of the teenagers were from the Middle East or Southeast Asian countries.
One 17 year old from Thailand was brought out by a 57-year-old man, and a 17-year-old Iraqi girl was sponsored by a 50 -year-old.
More than 100 17 year olds from Lebanon were granted the visas after being sponsored by men aged 19 to 37.
Under the visa’s conditions, the girls must marry their sponsor within nine months. Australian laws only allow minors to be married in strictly-controlled circumstances, with court approval.
In another case, a Lebanese high school junior from an area dominated by strict Muslims sought protection after arriving in Australia on a prospective spouse visa for an arranged marriage with a man decades her senior, only to find that he was a violent drunk who kept his previous wife and children in an adjoining house.
The teenager was eventually granted a protection visa after her own family threatened to kill her.
“She will be slaughter and killed,” the girl’s family said in a letter. “By God, I will kill you at the airport and I will bury you in the grave. O you dog.”
The Australian Childhood Foundation’s Joe Tucci called for an urgent inquiry.
“A thorough audit needs to be done to ensure these children are safe,” he said. “Is this a program the Australian community really supports?”
Child safety researcher Chris Goddard said the figures were extremely disturbing and “make a mockery of local marriage laws”.
An immigration department spokesman defended the visa program, saying: “Applicants for a partner visa or a prospective marriage visa must meet a range of criteria, including being able to demonstrate they are in a genuine and ongoing partner relationship with their sponsoring partner.”
Originally published asChild brides flown in on special visas