On the 23rd and 24th January 2017, the Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, received answers to written questions about British children being sent abroad to marry, and about the Forced Marriage Unit’s policy of not paying for the repatriation of British nationals forced to marry abroad.
Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what estimate they have made of the total number of (1) British nationals under the age of 16, and (2) British nationals aged 16–17, sent abroad in 2016 in order to enter into a forced marriage.
Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many cases the Forced Marriage Unit dealt with in 2015 and 2016 respectively, in which (1) British nationals under the age of 16, and (2) British nationals aged 16–17, were sent abroad in order to enter into a forced marriage.
Baroness Williams of Trafford: The UK is a world-leader in the fight to stamp out the brutal practice of forced marriage, with our joint Home Office and Foreign and Commonwealth Office Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) which leads efforts to combat it both at home and abroad. We made forced marriage a criminal offence in 2014 to better protect victims and send a clear message that this abhorrent practice is totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated in the UK.
The FMU publishes statistics annually. The most recent statistics, published on 8 March 2016, show that the FMU gave advice or support related to a possible forced marriage in 1,220 cases. A breakdown shows that the FMU gave advice and support to 174 people between the ages of 1-15 and 155 people aged 16-17. A further breakdown of this information would incur a disproportionate cost.
Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they intend to revise their policy of not paying for the repatriation of British citizens forced to marry abroad, and whether they will provide the Forced Marriage Unit with the relevant funds.
Baroness Williams of Trafford: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is not funded to provide financial assistance to British nationals overseas. However, we can provide emergency loans on a discretionary basis, in very exceptional circumstances, when people want to return home from overseas and they are unable to do this via any other means. Emergency loans are from public funds and therefore we have an obligation to recover the money.
The Government recognises the risks that victims of forced marriage can face and the challenges that they may encounter on the return to the UK. This is why emergency loans are offered to assist British nationals in these circumstances. Through the joint FCO and Home Office Forced Marriage Unit, we work very closely with partner organisations in the UK, including the police, social services and healthcare professionals, to ensure that those at risk are appropriately protected.
We regularly review all aspects of our consular policy and as such will be reviewing our policy on issuing emergency loans in early 2017.