For immediate release:
FORCED MARRIAGE CHARITY “FREEDOM” SEND OPEN LETTER TO
MICHAEL GOVE URGING FIGURES TO BE MADE AVAILABLE ON
HOW MANY CHILDREN EXPECTED BACK AT SCHOOL AFTER
THE SUMMER HOLIDAY FAIL TO RETURN
4th October, 2013: Freedom Charity is urging the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, to collate and make publicly available figures on how many children due to return to school after the summer holiday, fail to appear.
The summer holiday is the key time when young people are taken abroad to be forced into marriage yet Freedom Charity have been unable to find out (via a Freedom of Information request) how many empty chairs there are in classrooms around the country at the beginning of the Autumn Term.
Please find, below, Freedom Charity’s letter to Mr Gove:
The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP,
Secretary of State for Education.
3rd October 2013
Dear Mr Gove,
We would be grateful if you could address as a matter of urgency the fact that it appears to be impossible to find out how many children expected back at school after the summer holiday (2013) have failed to return.
Freedom Charity work to protect the lives of children and young people by raising awareness of forced marriage in the UK. The summer holiday is a key time when children are taken abroad, often thinking they will be going to a relative’s wedding, only to find it is their own. These children will be kept abroad against their will and subjected to rape and other forms of physical and mental abuse.
At this time last year (September 2012), we submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Department for Education to try to find out how many school children had failed to return to their classes after the 2012 summer break. We were told that these figures were not kept nationally and that we would need to contact each education authority individually. We did not have the resources to do this ourselves and were not confident that education authorities would want to provide such information, even if they had it, to a small charity.
We believe that it is your responsibility as Secretary of State for Education to ensure that the number of children missing at the start of term is recorded and made available under the Freedom of Information Act. It is vital that organisations such as ours, who work alongside the Government’s Forced Marriage Unit, and the FMU themselves, know what the scale of the problem is. We all need to be able to allocate scarce resources appropriately and be able to highlight the issue of missing children in order to be able to protect the most vulnerable. It is important for us to know who is missing because these children won’t be able to help themselves.
Freedom Charity have seen a marked increase in calls to our helpline and use of our Forced Marriage App before, during and after the 2013 school summer holiday. The Government estimates that as many as 8,000 young people are pressed into early or forced marriage in the UK. The Government, schools, police and organisations like ours need to work together to reduce this figure.
These are the key questions that need to be answered:
1. How many children that were expected to return after the summer holiday have now failed to return to school?
2. How many of those children have been suspected of being the subject of a forced marriage?
3. What is the age and school year of the missing children? How many of them are girls and how many boys?
We respectfully request that you give this matter your urgent attention.
Founder, Freedom Charity.
Contacts and interviews:
Aneeta Prem is available for interview.
Sophia Dettmer, Southwick Media Consultancy, Tel: 07803 800164.
Vineeta Thornhill, CEO Freedom Charity, Tel: 07703 191326.
Notes to editors:
Freedom Charity work to protect the lives of children and young people by raising awareness of forced marriage in the UK.
They set up the country’s first 24/7 forced marriage telephone and text helpline. The telephone number is: 0845 607 0133 and text service details are: text 4freedom to 88802. The helplines are staffed by trained professionals to aid both victims of forced marriage, and friends and professionals seeking advice.
In March 2013 they launched a smartphone app which they developed in conjunction with the Government's Forced Marriage Unit and the police. At the touch of a button the user can be taken straight through to the emergency services and helplines for organisations including Freedom Charity, the Forced Marriage Unit, CEOP, ChildLine and Samaritans. The Freedom app can be downloaded at iTunes for IPhones or Google Play for Android phones and Blackberry World for Blackberry phones.
Aneeta Prem has written a novel, for ages 9+, called “But It’s Not Fair” which introduces children to the issue of Forced Marriage in a highly readable and entertaining way. The book is free to download from the Government’s website: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/forced-marriage-b...
The Government estimates that between 5,000 and 8,000 young people are pressed into early or forced marriage in the UK. 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 over 400 reports. Although most victims are of Asian origin, the practice can also be found in other ethnic groups including Turkish, Greek, African, Arab, people from former Soviet Union countries as well as the travelling community.
Aneeta Prem is due to appear on the BBC 6 o’clock news, 10 o’clock news and Radio 4’s PM programme this evening.
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