New figures show MoD increases targeting of 16-year-olds

By agency reporter
May 26, 2016

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has released figures today (26 May 2016) showing that 1,790 minors were enlisted into the army in the financial year to March 2016, accounting for 22 per cent  of the army’s total enlisted intake for the same period (8,020 recruits).

These figures are released in the same week as a coalition of children’s organisations from across the UK published a joint letter to the MoD urging it to raise the enlistment age and just two days after the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child challenged the UK government over its ongoing recruitment of children.

Annual personnel figures published by the MoD today show that in the financial year to March 2016, minors accounted for 22.2 per cent of new recruits enlisted into the army, falling from 23.8 per cent in the previous year.] Absolute numbers fell by just ten recruits, which means the fall in percentage is due to an increase in adults enlisting.

Although recruitment of minors continues to fall, 16-year-old recruits now outnumber 17-year-olds by a significant margin, constituting 920 and 870 recruits respectively. Many of the youngest recruits would have begun the enlistment process when they were 15 years old, and before having an opportunity to sit their GCSE exams. Those who enlist aged between 16 and 16¼ can only enlist into frontline combat roles, where the risk of fatality is highest over the course of their military career. Research found that in Afghanistan, British soldiers who enlisted aged 16 and completed training were twice as likely to be killed as those who enlisted aged 18 or above.

In its report to the UN children’s rights body, reviewed earlier this week, the government admitted that, in direct contradiction of the Committee’s previous recommendations and the requests of child rights organisations across the UK, it intended actively to increase the number of children it recruits into the armed forces.  It stated, “Increasing the number of personnel recruited prior to their 18th birthday is one of many measures the Army Board endorsed to alleviate the risk of undermanning.

“Prioritising recruitment of the very youngest candidates into the armed forces is a direct violation of the UK’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child”, said Rachel Taylor, Programme Manager at Child Soldiers International. “Whilst we welcome the overall trend in the figures, it is deeply troubling to see that the MoD is increasing its reliance on the youngest and most vulnerable recruits to fill the most dangerous roles.  This is a policy choice, not a necessity and has no place in a professional, modern armed force.”

* Child Soldiers International


Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.