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UK Summer Warnings Over Forced Marriages

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Forced Marriages: Summer Holidays Prompt Warnings

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-23639070

Teachers, doctors and airport staff need to be alert to the problem of forced marriages over the school holidays, the government has warned.

Ministers said there were concerns about teenagers being taken abroad thinking they were going on holiday but being forced into marriage instead.

Figures suggest cases are particularly common during the summer break.

The Home Office's and Foreign Office's Forced Marriage Unit had 400 reports between June and August last year.

Recent estimates suggest more than 5,000 people from the UK are forced into marriage every year.

More than a third of those affected are aged under 16.

The government is calling for increased awareness, and is promoting an advice line and information cards aimed at potential victims to explain how they can get help.
Tougher action

Foreign Office minister Mark Simmonds said: "The school summer holidays are the time when young people are at the highest risk of being taken overseas for a forced marriage.

"'Our Marriage: It's Your Choice' cards highlight that people who are at risk of forced marriage know they can turn to our Forced Marriage Unit for support, whether they are at home or are already abroad."

Ministers said it was wrong that teenagers who should be thinking about their exam results found themselves lured into a life of fear and subservience instead.

Aneeta Prem, founder of children's organisation Freedom Charity, said: "It's vital that young people travelling abroad for a family wedding this summer realise it could be their own wedding they'll be going to, and know who they should contact for help should they find themselves in danger."

Shadow immigration minister Chris Bryant welcomed the "raising awareness of these issues".

"But I can't help thinking that, given it's been weeks since pupils and teachers started their holidays, it might have been more useful if Jeremy Browne and his Home Office colleagues had thought to do this before schools broke up for the summer," he added.

The government is also publishing plans to follow the example of Scotland by making forced marriage a criminal offence in England and Wales.

This could mean parents who are found guilty of forcing their children into marriage face a prison sentence.

Crime prevention minister Jeremy Browne said: "This is a serious abuse of human rights and that is why we are legislating to make it illegal."
 

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