Police across the UK began the first ever national crackdown on forced marriage at a number of airports on Monday as latest figures show a spike in children being trafficked abroad to marry family members or acquaintances.
The most common destinations are seen as India, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Somalia and Bangladesh.
A number of support charities have joined police alongside social and health services in working with the Border Force for Operation Limelight.
Set to run between 15-19 July, Operation Limelight will focus on flights between the UK and destinations where there is a known high level of forced marriage. Airport and airline staff will receive further education around spotting warning signs, in the hopes that this will increase their confidence in reporting suspicious activity.
Police are launching the first ever national crackdown on forced marriage at a number of airports as the school holidays get underway – Operation Limelight. https://t.co/t94ia4Qvf1 pic.twitter.com/5FaPBZscko
— NPCC (@PoliceChiefs) July 15, 2019
The Home Office’s Forced Marriage Unit reported in May it had reported 1,764 cases of suspected forced marriage over the course of 2018. One-third of cases (574) handled involved young people under the age of 18, with authorities handling cases coming from over 70 countries.
The highest rates of forced marriage travel in 2018 from the UK involved travel to Pakistan (769 cases), Bangladesh (157) and India (110). Numbers are thought to be higher, as forced marriages are often hidden crimes.
Lasy year Breitbart News reported there has been a 100 percent year-on-year rise in the number of forced marriage cases linked to Somali heritage youngsters alone, with many tricked into returning to Africa where they are often detained and abused.
Some of the children and teenagers are imprisoned and held against their will and only given their freedom back if they agree to marry.
UK Pushes Charges After Just Three Percent of Forced Marriage Reports https://t.co/txeCqbFDAJ
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) August 4, 2018
Forced marriage has been a specific criminal offence in the UK since 2014, as it was outlined in the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. Often other criminal offences also apply, such as violence and coercive control.
National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for forced marriage, Commander Ivan Balhatchet, said police will “investigate every case fully and take all available steps to detect and prosecute those involved in this heinous crime. Forcing someone to marry is punishable by up to seven years in prison.”
He urged anyone with concerns around forced marriage to act immedately, saying , “any other harmful practices affecting our children or vulnerable adults to come forward and tell police. We will treat each individual case sensitively and confidentially.”