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Posts Tagged ‘FMU’

Official data on forced marriages in UK may hide true scale of abuse

Figures showing that 1,220 possible cases of forced marriage in Britain were reported to the authorities last year may not reflect the full scale of abuse, the Home Office has said.

The official figures show that the number of cases reported to the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) via its public helpline or email fell by 3%, or 47 cases, in 2015, continuing the downward trend of the last six years.

The unit, a joint Home and Foreign Office operation, received 350 calls a month and offered help or support in 1,220 cases. Some of the 350 were repeat calls about cases, or were about other issues, including divorces, annulments and sham marriages.

Almost 80% were from professionals, colleagues, friends or family, and only a small proportion from victims themselves.

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One in 10 forced marriages are in Yorkshire

ONE in ten reports of a suspected forced marriage in the UK come from concerned communities in Yorkshire and the Humber, new statistics show.

As a dangerous window of opportunity approaches for women and men to be taken abroad against their will during half term, the Government is today launching a video with the message that the ‘brutal’ practice will not be tolerated in the region.

Around 120 women and men living across Yorkshire and the Humber received help and support from the Government’s Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) last year in what were potential cases of someone being married against their will.
Pakistan, India and Bangladesh were the most common countries involved in reports to the FMU, however nearly a quarter of cases were from people concerned about a marriage to someone in the UK.

Today the Foreign Office has launched a hard-hitting video showing forced marriage’s devastating impact on the victim and their family, and the criminal consequences of anyone’s involvement in the process.

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Virtual College to create forced marriage learning

Virtual College commissioned by the Government to create forced marriage online learning

To support professionals dealing with forced marriage in the course of their work and quickly improve general awareness, the government has commissioned online learning specialist, Virtual College, to produce a new e-learning package.

Approximately 8,000 to 10,000 forced marriages of British citizens take place every year. A forced marriage is where one or both people do not consent to the marriage and pressure or abuse is used.

Forced marriage is now illegal and the first prosecutions have taken place.

Virtual College worked closely with the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU), a joint Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Home Office unit, to create the free online course which raises awareness, challenge perceptions and provides advice on the correct actions to take.

A resource pack is also available to help organisations promote this important course and spread awareness.

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Why are there so few forced marriage prosecutions?

Last year the Forced Marriages Unit (FMU), run jointly by the Home Office and the Foreign Office, gave advice and support in 1,267 cases of possible forced marriages.

So why are there so few prosecutions? Many say the problem lies in deep-rooted cultural traditions and that young people are reluctant to come forward to the authorities.

Nazir Afzal, former head of the North West Crown Prosecution Service, says the new legislation with the threat of seven years in prison is needed to make progress. “One of the major things stopping victims coming forward is the codes of silence that exist in the family.

“It’s like the mafia. You cover up, as you are so scared of the consequences,” he says.”Victims are not receiving the justice they deserve and this is why this new legislation matters. It’s to help victims – it’s all victim-led.”

Campaign groups say the actual numbers of forced marriages are much higher, with between 8,000 and 10,000 each year in the UK, though this remains an estimate and actual numbers are hard to prove.

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How do we keep girls safe?

I am hurrying through a maze of streets in a city in Pakistan with two officials from the British High Commission in Islamabad. It’s a race against time to rescue a British girl who fears she is being forced into marriage against her will. Sana, a 19-year-old from the Midlands, was brought here by her parents, lured with the promise that she could go to university. Instead, she was physically abused when she refused to marry a man she had never met.

Sana cannot leave the house and is afraid to speak on her mobile, but she can text. Smartphone technology enables British Consul Simon Minshull and his local colleague Neelam Farooq to pinpoint the house. Taken unawares, Sana’s parents let the officials in, and Farooq immediately insists on seeing her alone, telling her father they are concerned for her welfare. Once alone, Sana tells Farooq she is desperate to leave. “She has asked for assistance and we cannot refuse that,” Farooq firmly tells her father.

Now Minshull demands the girl’s British passport. While her father stalls, Farooq hustles Sana out. The family have made a phone call and more relatives are on their way. Things could turn nasty. Within minutes, Sana is in our armoured convoy and we are speeding away. A slight figure with a quiet but determined manner, she confides that she was terrified the officials would not come, or that her father would not let her go.

“The abuse was very bad,” she says, admitting she had considered suicide rather than go through a forced marriage: “I thought the easiest way out was death, hard as that is… either that or get the embassy to help.”

The dramatic rescue in Pakistan was the culmination of work by a special government team – the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) in the Foreign Office. It deals with around 1,400 cases a year but believes there may be more than 6,000. The unit has cases in 74 countries, but 42 per cent involve Pakistan, due to the large diaspora community in the UK. Last summer, forced marriage was made a criminal offence in Britain – a signal from the Government that the practice, which can lead to abuse, rape and murder, will no longer be tolerated. “Forced marriage is a government priority,” says Minshull, “and our commitment is that we will use the option of rescuing someone where we need to.”

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Pupils missing after school holidays shows big increase in district

The number of children who go missing during school holidays is on the rise, the Telegraph & Argus can reveal.

New data shows 96 children failed to return to school as expected after the long summer break last year, the highest number in three years and a 55 per cent rise on the previous year’s figure.

More than half of the children – 54 of them – were still unaccounted for a month later, despite the efforts of the local authority to trace them or their families. The Telegraph & Argus requested Bradford’s figures for the past three years under the Freedom of Information Act.

Each year, many children reported missing from school rolls turn out to have moved to a different school but other children and their families are never traced. Campaigners fear some of them could have been taken overseas by their families to be forced into marriages. The authority’s education boss, Councillor Ralph Berry, said the rise could be down to the increasing number of Eastern European migrants, who could be moving back to their countries of origin without telling their children’s schools. He said: “In many cases it’s a family that has moved and neglected to tell us.

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National helpline to discourage forced marriages in UK

national help line on the issue has been launched by the forced marriage unit at Home Office London in order to discourage the menace of the issue of forced marriages through civil legislature and with the coordination of the civil society. This was disclosed here yesterday by Ms. Victoria White, the visiting Caseworker of the British Foreign & Common Wealth office in London while addressing a news conference here on Tuesday during her day-long official trip to this city of over a million Britain-based Kashmiri expatriates.

The British diplomat was accompanied by Albert David, Consular Operations in the British High Commission and Mrs. Neelam Farooq, head of Consular Operations, British High CommissionIslamabad and other two-member official team of the experts from the BHC. She pointed out least 47 percent of the total of 1500 cases of forced marriages from various countries, registered with the Forced Marriage Unit of the British Home office in London, belong to Pakistan, mostly Azad Jammu & Kashmir.


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Teachers and doctors warned in fight against forced marriage during summer peak

Teachers, doctors and airport staff have been warned to watch out for young people being taken abroad to undergo forced marriages over the school holiday period.

The Home Office said the summer marks a peak in reports of such cases, with youngsters being taken on “holiday” by their parents, unaware of the real purpose of the trip. Between June and August last year, the government’s Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) received more than 400 reports. The unit is handing out advice cards to provide help and information to potential victims, pointing them to confidential advice. The cards say: “You gave a right to choose who you marry, when you marry or if you marry at all.” A Home Office spokeswoman said the cards would be available in airports and other locations but would not be proactively handed to young people based on their ethnicity.

Aneeta Prem, the founder of campaign group Freedom Charity, said: “It’s vital that young people travelling abroad for a family wedding this summer realise it could be their own wedding they’ll be going to – and know who they should contact for help should they find themselves in danger.”

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Forced marriage has always been a crime in spirit

David Cameron is right to criminalise forced marriage. This abominable, inhumane act robs people of their lives.

In deciding to criminalise forced marriage – the act of coercing a person to marry against their will – the government has made a bold statement: that this heinous, inhumane, oppressive act is never acceptable. The decision couldn’t come soon enough. The government’s forced marriage unit (FMU) provided advice or support in almost 1,500 cases last year, but the true picture is thought to be even graver. One study in 2009 estimated that up to 8,000 women and men, girls and boys could be entering into unwilling unions each year, often being torn from their lives in Britain to live in an unknown land with an unknown spouse.

Shockingly, a third of victims assisted by the FMU last year were minors – schoolchildren who suddenly became spouses either here or abroad –the youngest reported case is thought to have been just five years old.

We must be clear. This is not like arranged marriage, where two parties consent. In forced marriage, to resist betrothal is to risk ostracism, abuse and even murder. Currently, the law does not go far enough. Forced marriage protection orders were introduced in 2008, but breaching an order is only a breach of civil law. The message this sends out is a dangerous one: it says that Britain equates this enforced matrimony with mere civil misdemeanours.