The 759 cases in 2020 represents a 44% decrease on the average number of cases (1,359) received annually between 2011 and 2019. This is thought to be largely attributable to reasons derived from the coronavirus pandemic, such as restrictions on weddings and overseas travel, which have been in place to varying degrees from March 2020. Following the introduction of the first lockdown in the UK, referrals to the FMU decreased from an average of 82 per month (January-March 2020) to 44 per month (April-June 2020). A procedural change regarding whether to log a new case as a referral or a general enquiry is also likely to have had a minor impact on the overall number of cases compared with previous years.
The FMU remained fully operational throughout the restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic and took steps to ensure that this was publicised extensively. FMU caseworkers have been more regularly invited to attend multi-agency strategy meetings following the switch to virtual working.
In 2020, the FMU increased its outreach activities and delivered training to over 450 professionals in how to support victims of forced marriage. This included the introduction of bespoke training workshops for social workers alongside the existing programme of workshops for police officers. This also included presentations to police officers, social services, health professionals, Border Force staff and community groups. In 2020, 12,162 people from a wide range of professions took the FMU’s Awareness of Forced Marriage free online course.
Of the cases that the FMU provided advice or support to in 2020:
These proportions are broadly in line with case numbers from recent years.
Forced marriage is not a problem specific to one country, religion or culture. Since 2011, the FMU has handled cases relating to countries across six continents.
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