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Rights groups: UK must end army recruitment at 16

LONDON — Britain’s military is wasting up to $143.4 million a year training recruits who are under 18 years old, human rights campaigners said Tuesday, urging an end to the practice.

Britain is the only member of the European Union and only permanent member of the United Nations Security Council that allows military recruitment from the age of 16 — though soldiers cannot deploy until they turn 18. Most countries recruit from the age of 18.

Child Soldiers International and Forces Watch said it costs the military — which has borne severe cuts under government austerity measures — twice as much to train a soldier recruited at 16 than it does at 18 due to longer training requirements and higher dropout rates.

They called on Britain’s Ministry of Defense to revisit its “outdated” policy of recruiting minors.

“Recruiting minors into the army is a practice from a bygone era,” said David Gee of Forces Watch. “It’s not just young recruits who pay the price for outdated MoD policies - taxpayers do too.”

Initial training for minors lasts either 23 or 50 weeks while adult recruits can complete a similar course in 14 weeks, the groups said in a report published Tuesday.

Plus, at any given time, around 150 soldiers are fully trained but too young to be deployed, the report said, arguing that paying those salaries is a waste of taxpayer funds.

The Defense Ministry said it has no plans to change policy and doesn’t recognize the figures in the report, “which ignores the benefits and opportunities that a military career offers young people.”

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