Hundreds of passengers arriving at Heathrow from South Asian countries were questioned on Tuesday as part of a ‘pro-active operation’ by Scotland Yard and Border Force to raise awareness of forced marriage, an issue that figures often during summer holidays.
Bangladesh is among top three countries linked to forced marriages dealt with by the Forced Marriages Unit (FMU) of the British Home and Foreign Office. Figures released in May revealed that FMU handled 157 Bangladesh-linked cases in 2018, the top two are Pakistan: 769; India: 110.The passengers arriving from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh were questioned by Scotland Yard as part of the UK’s week-long crackdown on forced marriages.
The questioning was part of what the police called ‘preventative and detection work’ in relation to inbound flights that have travelled from or via ‘countries of prevalence’ for forced marriage, female genital mutilation and honour-based abuse and breast ironing.
Officials describe forced marriage as where one or both spouses do not, or in the case of some people with learning disabilities, cannot, consent to the marriage. The victim is threatened, bullied, abused or coerced into getting married. Forced marriage is illegal in the UK.
There have been instances when UK citizens were taken on holiday to the countries of their origin and forced to marry to non-British individuals for purposes such as immigration into the UK.
According to the FMU, “The proportion of cases linked to India in 2018 was similar to previous years. There was a higher proportion of older victims as well as male victims compared to other focus countries. This is most likely due to the fact that many of these cases involved reluctant sponsors”.
“Almost 30% of cases were linked to London. There were cases linked to 13 of the 32 London boroughs,” it added.Under the week-long programme, officials are working with NGOs such as the Sharan Project, Southall Black Sisters and Karma Nirvana to undertake a combination of educational, safeguarding and enforcement activities.
These include enhanced training about forced marriage to officers and staff who work at Heathrow Airport; preventative work with passengers on inbound flights from ‘countries of prevalence’; and intelligence-led checks on passengers.
Inspector Allen Davis of Scotland Yard said: “Forced marriage is a crime that has devastating consequences. Unfortunately it remains a hidden harmful practice and we need to change that and normalise conversations about it”.
“Police and partners are committed to raising the profile of forced marriage and giving victims the confidence to come forward and seek help and support, recognising how difficult this can be for them”.
Source: Hindustan Times