Posts Tagged ‘Home Office’

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.

A child bride

More than a quarter of possible cases of forced marriage in the UK involved victims aged under 18. Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian

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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Why are there so few forced marriage prosecutions?

Marriage ceremonial

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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