Over 5,000 immigrants risk forced marriage annually

The cases of forced marriages in England may be more than 8,000 reported last year

6th July 2009: The National Centre for Social Research believes over 5,000 people are at risk of forced marriage each year. So far this year there have been 770 calls to the Forced Marriage Unit, signifying a 16 per cent increase compared to the corresponding period last year.

The problem is witnessing a study rise. The Foreign Office’s dedicated unit dealt with as many as 420 cases last year. The number is almost three times of 152 in 2005.

The victims are more often than not compelled into a marriage to preserve "family honour", rather than allow them to form relationships with boys from other cultures or religions. Or else, they are forced into a marriage to help others move to Britain.

The problem of forced marriage is more pronounced among teenagers from Pakistan or Bangladesh, suggests a study published by the Department for Children, Schools and Families. Latest figures from the government’s Forced Marriage Unit indicate 70 per cent of the cases involve families of Pakistani origin. Another 11 per cent are from a Bangladeshi background.

It is also apprehended the cases of forced marriages in England may be much more than 8,000 reported last year. Available information suggests many forced marriages remain hidden because the "victims" are taken out of school. Or else, they fear reporting it to the authorities, even the relatives. Some others just do not know how to obtain help overseas.

The modus operandi to get them married is not hard to analyze. Some of the young brides are forced to marry abroad after they are taken out on the pretext of a holiday. Their passports are then confiscated. Some others are drugged or subjected to violence or threats, if they protest.

A research has also concluded there is a lack of understanding about the problem among some statutory services, making the problem more difficult to spot and to tackle.

Foreign Office minister Chris Bryant says every school should be looking at the issue, adding foremost is to spot the problem before it happens. Tell-tale signs can include evidence of self-harm or sudden lack of interest in academic work, he says.

In an apparent attempt to identify them, and tackle the problem of forced marriage, the government has now issued guidelines to the teachers, doctors and the police.

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