الأحد , يونيو 14 2020

'Fifty girls' taken from UK for FGM

Reports that at least 50 girls were taken from the UK to Somalia for female genital mutilation are being investigated by Scotland Yard.

Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Tonge contacted the Metropolitan Police after spotting a large group of girls on a flight from Heathrow last Saturday.

The girls were said to be aged 11 to 17 and with their mothers or grandmothers.

It comes as Bedfordshire Police secured the UK’s first FGM protection order, preventing two girls from going abroad.

The Metropolitan Police said officers from the Specialist Crime and Operations Command were investigating Lady Tonge’s report.

‘Scattering of grannies’

Speaking to the BBC, Lady Tonge said the girls spoke English and were of Somali origin.

“It was just odd,” she said. “They were young girls and mothers and a scattering of grannies.”

They were on an Ethiopian Airlines flight to Addis Ababa on 11 July and according to the Lib Dem peer transferred onto a plane to Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia.

Lady Tonge, along with the Labour MP for Halifax, Holly Lynch, was on a trip to the Financial Development Conference in Addis Ababa.

FGM, also termed female circumcision, is illegal in the UK. It refers to any procedure that alters or injures the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

It is a painful ritual carried out on women and young girls from certain communities from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.


The Met says its Specialist Crime and Operations Command is probing the reports

Lady Tonge said that both she and Ms Lynch felt the presence of so many girls at the start of the summer holidays was “suspicious”, given that it was the start of the so-called “cutting season” when FGM is carried out, and she decided to raise the alarm on her return to the UK.

Scotland Yard confirmed that police had been called by a “woman concerned about a large number of girls on a flight from Heathrow to Ethiopia on 11 July whom she believed were at risk of FGM”.

That confirmation from the Met came after Bedfordshire Police said it secured a protection court order on the day new powers came into effect.

The civil legislation allows officials to seize passports from people they suspect are planning on taking girls overseas for FGM, and breaching an order is a criminal offence.

The move prevents two girls being taken to Africa, Bedfordshire Police said.

The force said it is estimated that more than 20,000 girls under the age of 15 in the UK are at risk of FGM each year, although very few cases are reported.


Aneeta Prem of Freedom Charity said “cutters” may also be entering the UK to carry out FGM

Det Ch Insp Nick Bellingham, from Bedfordshire Police’s Public Protection Unit, said: “With schools breaking up for the summer holidays today, we will continue to use this legislation where needed to prevent young girls who we believe may be at risk from being taken out of the country.

“This is child abuse, and we will do everything in our power to ensure that children are kept safe and that those responsible are caught.”Aneeta Prem, founder of women’s charity Freedom Charity, said the use of a protection order was a positive step.

But she warned that the authorities must also look out for “cutters” – people who carry out FGM “for as little as £200 a girl” – entering the UK.

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