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Red Hands from the Bundestag
On Red Hand Day, students collected red handprints from over 200 Members of the parliament (MPs), employees and visitors in the German parliament building. The MPs thus committed themselves to campaigning for children in war zones to be better protected and former child soldiers in Germany to receive more adequate help. Germany bears a great responsibility here, especially with regard to three issues that were already debated several times in the German parliament:
1. Child soldiers as refugees:There are several hundred former child soldiers in Germany. Every day, child refugees arrive in Germany from countries such as Afghanistan, Somalia, Eritrea, Syria, Iraq or Sudan. They are often alone, unaccompanied by adults. They are usually desperate, having been child soldiers or fled their homes to avoid being recruited by the army or armed groups. By signing several international treaties, Germany has committed itself to guaranteeing these children protection and asylum. They need help to process their traumatic experiences, as well as to obtain access to education or training. Unfortunately, there are huge problems regarding the reception and treatment of these traumatized children in Germany. They are often not recognized as refugees and sometimes they are even placed in custody pending deportation, which can be even more distressing. There have been many suicide attempts.
2. Arms exports: Germany is the third biggest arms exporter in the world and one of the most important exporters of small arms. One significant reason for the escalation of many conflicts is that warzones are swamped with small arms. Because many arms are German-made, Germany is co-responsible for the suffering of many children in these countries. They or their parents might be killed with German arms, or they might be forced as child soldiers to fight with German weapons. This is a scandal! An immediate end has to be put to arms exports to crisis zones, especially if children are used as soldiers there, as is the case in almost all the world’s conflict zones. Exports of small arms and ammunition have to be stopped completely, as they are the most deadly weapons for civilians and their proliferation is not controlable.
3. Straight 18: Every year the German Army recruits up tp 2,000 minors (2016) and gives them weapons training. According to the definition supplied by the UN, these are child soldiers. Military service and weapons training are incompatible with the rights proclaimed by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child for all children under 18. Germany has to raise the recruitment age to 18 (“Straight 18”) like more than 150 other states in the world have already done. The United Nations have already called upon Germany to do this many times.