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Forced Marriage Unit figures released

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Forced Marriage Unit, FMU, annual report, forced marriage, criminal offenceThere has been a noticeable increase in cases linked to Romania’.

Latest figures released by the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) show that in 2018 advice or support related to a possible forced marriage was given in 1,764 cases.

A forced marriage is one in which one or both spouses do not – or, in the case of some adults with learning or physical disabilities or mental incapacity, cannot – consent to the marriage, and violence, threats, or any other form of coercion is involved. Coercion may include emotional force, physical force or the threat of it, and financial pressure.

In an arranged marriage, both parties have consented to the union but can still refuse to marry if they choose to.

The Forced Marriage Unit is a joint Home Office and Foreign and Commonwealth Office unit established in 2005 as part of the UK government’s forced marriage policy, outreach and casework.

The FMU 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.

Forced marriage is not a problem specific to one country or culture; since 2011, the Unit has handled cases relating to over 110 countries across Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and North America.

The FMU operates a public helpline to provide advice and support to victims of forced marriage as well as to professionals dealing with cases.

The assistance it provides ranges from safety advice through to helping a forced marriage victim prevent their unwanted spouse moving to the UK. In extreme circumstances the FMU will assist with rescues of victims held against their will overseas.

Since 2012, the Forced Marriage Unit has provided support to between approximately 1,200 and approximately 1,400 cases per year.

The number of cases in 2018 represents a 47 per cent increase compared with 2017 and is the highest number since these statistics were first collated in the current format in 2011.

This does not necessarily represent an increase in the prevalence of forced marriage in the UK.

There are other potential reasons for the increase in cases:

A greater awareness of forced marriage being a crime and the support available, after two court cases which received significant amounts of media attention and resulted in prosecutions;

Wider media attention possibly raising awareness of forced marriage;

The launch of the Home Office’s communication campaign about forced marriage; and

An improved data recording process.

The Forced Marriage Unit provided support to 574 cases (33 per cent) involving victims below 18 years of age, and a further 542 cases (31 per cent) involved victims aged 18-2; 165 cases (9 per cent) involved victims aged 26-30; 146 cases (8 per cent) involved victims aged 31-40; and 45 cases (3 per cent) involved victims aged 41 and over.

In 17 per cent of cases the ages of the victims were unknown.

In 2018, the majority of cases – 1,322 (75 per cent) – involved women, and 297 cases (17 per cent) involved men. The sex in the remaining cases was unknown. These proportions are in line with previous years.

In 2018, the FMU handled cases relating to 74 ‘focus’ countries.

But the six countries with the highest number of cases in 2018 were: Pakistan – 769 cases (44 per cent); Bangladesh – 157 cases (9 per cent); India – 110 cases (6 per cent); Somalia and Somaliland – 46 cases (3 per cent); Afghanistan – 44 cases (3 per cent); and Romania – 43 cases (2 per cent).

The proportion of cases relating to Pakistan has increased by around 7 per cent compared with the previous year. However, the proportion of cases relating to Pakistan in 2018 is stable compared to 2011-2016.

After a large increase in 2017, the number of cases linked to Somalia has decreased.

There has been a noticeable increase in cases linked to Romania. In 2018, the FMU provided support to 43 such cases compared with 29 the whole period 2011-2017. Victims in these cases were significantly younger than for other countries; nearly 80 per cent were aged 15 and under.

In 2018, 119 cases (7 per cent) had no overseas element, with the potential or actual forced marriage taking place entirely within the UK. This is a decrease compared with previous years, but continues to highlight that forced marriages can take place in the UK.

To read the full report, click here.

For advice and support, contact the FMU helpline on 020 7008 0151; or email fmu@fco.gov.uk; or visit the Forced Marriage Unit’s website.

In an emergency call 999.

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