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Forced Marriages: Victim Support Schemes

Volume 496: debated on Thursday 16 July 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his most recent assessment is of the Forced Marriage Unit’s effectiveness in reducing the number of forced marriages; and how many forced marriages reported to the unit involved people under 16 years old in the last 12 months. (284797)

The Forced Marriage Unit has been a great success in encouraging people to report potential instances of forced marriage, in intervening in specific cases and in getting across the message that forced marriage is not acceptable in any culture or any religion.

The very nature of forced marriage means that it is likely that a number of cases go unreported. In recent years Government action to address forced marriage has focused on encouraging victims and potential victims to come forward and seek help.

Partly as result of growing awareness of the support available, the number of cases coming to our attention is rising. Last year the Forced Marriage Unit, a joint Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Home Office Unit, received over 1,600 reports of suspected incidences of forced marriage to its helpline. Of these the unit directly intervened to help victims in 420 cases, which included overseas assistance and support to reluctant sponsors in immigration cases. 14 per cent. of overseas assistance cases involved people under 16 years old.

So far this year, figures for January to June show that the unit received 770 calls to its helpline in relation to incidence of forced marriage, which represents an increase in those seeking help of 16 per cent. over the same period last year.