Youngsters targeted over forced marriage

Teachers, doctors and airport staff have been warned to stay alert for more forced marriages before children go back to school.

Summer marks a peak in reports of forced marriage cases, when youngsters can be taken on “holiday”, unaware of the real purpose of the trips, the Home Office said.

Between June and August last year, the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU), a joint operation by the Home Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, received more than 400 reports.

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The unit is handing out Marriage: it’s your choice cards to point potential victims towards confidential advice.

Freedom Charity founder Aneeta Prem said: “The Marriage: it’s your choice card is a concise and accessible way to receive information that could save someone’s life. 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.”

The cards remind young people to speak to police or airline staff if they find themselves at an airport with nowhere to turn.

The FMU earlier this year revealed it helped in 1,485 cases of possible forced marriage in 2012, involving 60 countries in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and North America. Last year’s figures show that of the 744 cases where ages were known, more than 600 involved people under 26.

Crime prevention Minister Jeremy Browne said: “The rise in forced marriage reports over the school holidays is shocking.

“Teenagers ... should be embarking on a bright future, not condemned to a marriage with someone they have never met.”