UK Govt: Somali Heritage Teens Abused in Forced Marriage Detention Centres

This photo made on April 12, 2013 shows young Somali girls during an academic prize giving ceremony at the Undugu primary school at the sprawling Dadaab refugee complex in northeastern Kenya. Dadaab, home to more than 442,000 mainly Somali refugees, may be impoverished but still offers far more opportunities for …
TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty

There has been a 100 percent year-on-year rise in the number of forced marriage cases linked to Somali heritage youngsters, with many tricked into returning to Africa where they are often detained and abused, officials say.

The youngsters are routinely being taken to their parents’ home countries, under the pretence of a holiday, but instead are kept in detention centres before they are forced into marriage, The Guardian reports.

They are put in a so-called “dhaqan celis”, which translates as “the rehabilitation community”, and children and teenagers are sent to “re-education schools” where they are taught Muslim and Somali cultural values.

However, the Home Office says the schools do not offer an academic curriculum and instead end in pupils being subjected to physical, mental, and sexual abuse.

Some of the children and teenagers are imprisoned and held against their will and only given their freedom back if they agree to marry.

David Myers, joint head of the Home Office’s Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) in the UK, told The Guardian:

“What we are seeing in these communities is that young people who have antisocial behaviour issues, are getting involved in gangs and drugs, and are being sent back to Somalia by their parents for re-education and rehabilitation.

“The concept in Somali culture, dhaqan celis, means returning to the culture to help them rehabilitate and they are sent to what they call schools but what we call detention centres.

“We have had reports of physical abuse, mental abuse, sexual abuse within these centres, where they are kept in really strict conditions.

“These teenagers and children are told that the only way they can escape these centres is to get married to another Somalian and that is where the forced marriage element comes into it.”

The latest figures show a 100 per cent increase in the number of forced marriage cases handled by the Home Office involving Somali children and teenagers in just a year.

Almost 75 per cent of the victims, some younger than 15, were already abroad when they contacted the government’s FMU.

In July, ahead of the school holidays, UK police warned children that they may be subject to “honour-based violence” such as forced marriages and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) when they go abroad.

Around 4,500 new cases of FGM were recorded in England and Wales in the year to March 2018, more than one every two hours, NHS data has revealed.

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