The UK government has issued a warning to teachers, doctors and airport staff to be alert to forced marriages over the school holidays.
The summer marks a peak in reports of forced marriage cases, when youngsters can be taken on ‘holiday’, unaware of the real purpose of the trip.
Between June and August last year, the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU), a joint operation by the Home Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, received over 400 reports. This year the unit is handing out “Marriage: it’s your choice” cards, to provide help and information to potential victims, signposting them to confidential advice. The cards also remind young people to speak to police or airline staff if they find themselves at an airport with nowhere to turn.
Crime Prevention Minister Jeremy Browne said: “The rise in forced marriage reports over the school holidays is shocking. Teenagers expecting their GCSE or A-level results should be embarking on a bright future, not condemned to a marriage with someone they have never met and do not want to marry. This is a serious abuse of human rights and that is why we are legislating to make it illegal.
“My message to young people who feel they are at risk is please come forward; you do not have to suffer in silence; there is help available and it can be stopped.”
Foreign Office Minister Mark Simmonds said: “The school summer holidays are the time when young people are at the highest risk of being taken overseas for a forced marriage.
“Our ‘Marriage: it’s your choice’ cards highlights that people who are at risk of forced marriage know they can turn to our Forced Marriage Unit for support – whether they are at home or are already abroad. The Forced Marriage Unit has a confidential helpline, and can be contacted for advice on 0207 008 0151.”
The Forced Marriage Unit was set up in January 2005 as the Government’s one-stop shop for dealing with forced marriage policy, outreach and casework. It operates both inside the UK, where support is provided to any individual, and overseas, where consular assistance is provided to British nationals, including dual nationals.