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What to do

Cases of forced marriage can involve complex and sensitive issues that should be handled by a child protection or adult protection specialist with expertise in forced marriage such as the NSPCC.

Explore further:

>> First steps in all cases
>> Do not...
>> Information required if the individual is going overseas immediately
>> Obtain - before they travel, after they travel
>> Remember...

First Steps In All Cases

  • See them immediately in a secure and private place where the conversation cannot be overheard
  • Recognise and respect their wishes; maintain and reassure them about confidentiality as far as possible
  • If the young person is under 18 years of age, refer them to the designated person with responsibility for safeguarding children and activate local safeguarding procedures.  If the person is an adult with support needs, refer them to the person with responsibility for safeguarding vulnerable adults.
  • Consider the need for immediate protection and placement away from the family
  • Obtain a list from the person under threat of all those friends and family who can be trusted and their contact details
  • Establish a code word to ensure you are speaking to the right person if contact is made via telephone or email and set up a discreet method of contact
  • Develop a safety plan in case they are seen i.e. prepare another reason why you are meeting

Do Not

  • Send them away
  • Approach members of their family or the community unless they expressly ask you to do so
  • Share information with anyone without their express consent
  • Attempt to be a mediator

Information Required If The Individual Is Going Overseas Imminently

  • Contact the FMU as early as possible and encourage the victim to get in touch with them independently
  • Advise them not to travel overseas if this is at all possible
  • There may be occasions when a person is going overseas imminently and it is vital gather as much information as possible. In these cases, the information should be passed on to police, social care services and the Forced Marriage Unit.

Obtain- before they travel, after they travel

  • A photocopy of their passport for retention
  • Encourage them to keep details of their passport number and the place and date of issue
  • As much information as possible about the family (this will need to be gathered discreetly)
  • including:
  • Full details of the victim, the travel itinerary and any family members travelling with them
  • Any address where they may be staying overseas
  • Potential spouse’s name (if known)
  • Date of the proposed wedding (if known)
  • Information that only they would be aware of (if the victim is a British national, this may assist any subsequent interview at an Embassy/British High Commission in case another person of the same age and gender is produced pretending to be them)
  • A safe means by which to contact them e.g. a mobile telephone that will function overseas
  • An estimated return date (Ask that they contact you without fail on their return)
  • A written statement by the person explaining that they want the police, adult or children’s social care, a teacher or a third party to act on their behalf if they do not return by a certain date.
  • Supply the address and contact number for the nearest British Embassy or High Commission


  • If the family are approached, they may deny that the person is being forced to marry, move them, expedite any travel arrangements and bring forward the forced marriage.
  • Report details of the case, with full family history, to the Forced Marriage Unit.  The person may be a dual national and have two passports, or listed on their parents’ foreign passport if they are under 18 years of age.  Advise those with dual nationality to travel on their British passport, as this will greatly assist in their return to the UK.
  • British Embassies and High Commissions can only help British nationals or, in certain circumstances EU or Commonwealth nationals. This means that if a non-British national leaves the UK to be forced into marriage overseas, the British Embassy or High Commission will not be able to assist them.
  • If they are not a British national, advise them to contact a reliable NGO overseas (this can be provided by the Forced Marriage Unit) and the details of the Embassy of their own nationality, and advise them to take a mobile phone that will work overseas (one which is capable of international roaming) and which they can keep hidden.
  • Advise them to take emergency cash, in the local currency and in hard currency (pounds, dollars, euros), in case problems arise in the country of destination, together with contact details of someone there they can trust to help them.


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