More than 200 17-year-old girls have been granted Prospective Spouse visas over the past five years. Most are young women from the Middle East or Southeast Asia. Under the conditions of this visa, girls must marry their sponsor within nine months of arrival in Australia. According to news reports, one 17-year-old Thai girl was sponsored by a 57-year-old man, and one Iraqi teenager was sponsored by a 50-year-old man.
Australian laws allow minors to marry only under strict conditions, and with court approval. Many of the girls who have been granted visas come from countries where arranged child marriage is practiced, or where the trafficking of girls and women is prevalent. Yet the Immigration Department has defended the program.
The government must launch an inquiry into these shocking figures, in order to ensure the visa process is transparent and that the safety of these girls can be ensured.