'Defence ministry must stop recruiting child soldiers'

1 December 2009

'Defence ministry must stop recruiting child soldiers'

The Ministry of Defence must call a halt to its 'recruitment propaganda', including ads aimed at attracting interest from teenagers and children aged 11 and over. SP Member of Parliament Remi Poppe will take advantage of this week's debate on the defence budget to call for an end to such advertising. "With websites like www.Oranjebaretten.nl, the army is approaching children in a completely tasteless manner," says Poppe. "The emphasis is on excitement. In reality soldiers after a tour of duty often suffer mental breakdown. Unfortunately, they also run the risk of being killed."

Remi PoppeOn the website in question, adolescents from 11 to 16 years of age are invited by 'Sergeant de Beer' ('beer' meaning 'bear' in Dutch) to apply to take part in 'important military operations and exciting missions'. Poppe is urging the Ministry of Defence to put a stop to this recruitment campaign aimed at people so young, as well as to what he calls the 'propagandistic' advertisements aimed at snaring older men and women. "These ads suggest that life in the navy or in the army is one big adventure," says Poppe. "Recruitment should be more sober than this, and directed at filling particular functions. It should give a realistic picture of the work."

Poppe also wants the budget for military recruitment reduced from €20 million to €5 million. "The money saved could then be used to pay for improvements to the after-care of soldiers who have done their tour of duty. Some ten percent of such soldiers come home with a post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSS). If you consider that annually thousands of soldiers are sent on mission, then we're talking about hundreds of cases of people who receive little or no after-care. They often turn to drink, wind up in prison, or are faced with divorce, unemployment and other forms of personal suffering. Family members often find them unrecognisable."

A meeting which Poppe organised last June resulted in a group of veterans, supported by a number of professional organisations, coming together to campaign for a better veterans' policy.

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