The Metropolitan Police

07/16/2019 | News release | Distributed by Public on 07/16/2019 05:35

Proactive operation at Heathrow Airport today

The Met will today, Tuesday, 16 July carry out a proactive operation at the country's busiest airport to raise awareness of forced marriage.

In collaboration with Border Force, specialist officers from the Met's Continuous Policing Improvement Command will be at Heathrow Airport carrying out preventative and detection work in relation to inbound flights that have travelled from or via 'countries of prevalence' for forced marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM) and honour based abuse and breast ironing.

Today's operation is part of the national Operation Limelight, a multi-agency safeguarding operation at the UK border that focuses on harmful practices.

A forced marriage is where one or both spouses do not, or in the case of some people with learning disabilities, cannot, consent to the marriage. The victim is threatened, bullied, abused or coerced into getting marriage. Forced marriage is illegal in the UK.

Inspector Allen Davis, of the Met's Rape and Harmful Practices Partnership Team, said: 'Forced marriage is a crime that has devastating consequences. Unfortunately it remains a hidden harmful practice and we need to change that and normalise conversations about it. Initiatives such as Operation Limelight bring together partners who are committed to ending this abuse. Police and partners are committed to raising the profile of forced marriage and giving victims the confidence to come forward and seek help and support, recognising how difficult this can be for them. Only by working collaboratively can we raise awareness, safeguard the vulnerable and ultimately prevent vulnerable people being subject to what can be a life-time of abuse.'

For more information about forced marriage, read Dina's story at - Dina was 16 when her family tried to force her into marrying an older man. She was scared and didn't know what to do but managed to get help and find a safe place to stay. She wants others to know that forced marriage is wrong and you can get help. To find out more visit:

An NSPCC spokesman said: 'Coercing or forcing children into marriage is illegal and can involve physical, sexual or emotional abuse.

'Sometimes children are, understandably, too frightened to speak up because they believe they have no control over the situation and they worry they will get their family into trouble or be disowned by their parents. But it's so vital that they do speak up. We want them to know that they can always talk to Childline, no matter the hour, and there is always a counsellor ready to listen and to help.'

Adults travelling with young girls will be spoken to, to offer awareness of the illegality of forced marriage, FGM and other harmful practices. Inbound flights also allow officers to identify victims and perpetrators of harmful practices, whilst explaining the health and legal consequences.

Amanda Read MBE, Border Force National Lead for Safeguarding and Modern Slavery, said: 'No one should be forced to marry or be subjected to abuse such as FGM, and Border Force is determined to play its role in protecting potential victims.

'Operation Limelight is a great example of Border Force working with law enforcement colleagues to tackle these abhorrent threats.'

Officers from Project Azure, the Met's response to tackling FGM and Forced Marriage, will work with partner organisations including Border Force and specialist third sector organisations such as the Sharan Project, Southall Black Sisters and Karma Nirvana to undertake a combination of educational, safeguarding and enforcement activities, including:

- Delivering enhanced training about forced marriage to officers and staff who work at Heathrow Airport to raise awareness of the practice and identify those affected.
- Preventative work with passengers on inbound flights from countries of prevalence.
- Intelligence-led checks on passengers.
- Engagement with passengers from communities affected by this crime.
- Identifying possible offences in order to take action against those responsible.

Polly Harrar, Founder of the Sharan Project, said: 'Having actively been involved with Operation Limelight since 2015, we can see the immediate and long term impact it has had to identify and support those affected or at risk of forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

'As a member of London Harmful Practice Working Group, we continue to ensure that a protective and preventative approach is taken and to raise awareness on these issues to end these harmful practices in the UK.'

Survivors of forced marriage will also be in attendance to support the operation, providing strategic advice and witness first-hand how the Met and Border Force tackle this issue. Hillingdon Children's Services and Barnardo's will also be in attendance.

On Wednesday, 17 July the Met will also be holding an event at New Scotland Yard in remembrance of Shafilea Ahmed who was murdered by her parents in a suspected honour killing in September 2003. She was a 17-year-old British Pakistani girl from Warrington.

Retired Metropolitan Police Detective Superintendent Caroline Goode will be speaking at the event about her experiences investigating the honour killing of Banaz Mahmod in 2006. Banaz Mahmod was a young woman who lived in London, she was murdered at the age of 20 by her father and uncle in an honour killing. A total of eight people were convicted for her murder and associated offences.

Caroline has since been awarded a Queen's Police Medal (QPM) for the investigation and for her work in training thousands of people about honour based violence.

UK law:
It is illegal to force someone into marriage either in the UK or abroad.
It is illegal to deceive someone into going abroad for a marriage to occur.
It is illegal to arrange the marriage of someone without mental capacity.
Forced Marriage Protection Orders are available from the family courts - which can protect individuals from being forced into marriage, or those that already been forced to marry - anyone can apply for this free of charge.

For help and support, contact the Forced Marriage Helpline on 0207 008 0151 or visit

Childline is free, anonymous, and open 24/7. Young people can call 0800 1111 or chat online at

Anyone with information is asked to contact police via 101 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.