UK and US law enforcement sign an intelligence sharing agreement to tackle female genital mutilation
UK police and border security have signed a new agreement with US counterparts to share intelligence about female genital mutilation (FGM) and are joining together in operations at UK and US airports.
The agreement will see various US agencies (including the FBI and Department of Homeland Security) and UK agencies (including NPCC and Border Force) share intelligence about travel patterns between the UK and US and other parts of the world where victims may be taken for the procedure. They will share intelligence about trends in the practice and information on live cases as well as jointly debriefing cases to build both countries’ knowledge of FGM and learn lessons from each other.
Officers will be at Heathrow, JFK Airport and the Eurostar stations as part of week of operations, targeting inbound flights from countries of prevalence seeking to identify where FGM may already have taken place or is planned. They will act on intelligence as well as talking to passengers about the law around FGM and the harm inflicted on victims, and giving them advice about how to report concerns. They will also be on the look out for signs of forced marriage, trafficking and child abuse. Further locations for operations also include Gatwick, Manchester and Luton airports.
FGM Protection Orders, which protect actual or potential victims from FGM under civil law, have been granted 220 times since their introduction in 2015 to the end of March 2018. A pilot is underway by the Ministry of Justice and the National Police Chiefs’ Council to improve the efficiency of FGM Protection Orders.
The agreement has been signed by Commander Ivan Balhatchet from the UK and Deputy Assistant Director Louis Rodi from the US, amongst others.
National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead on Female Genital Mutilation, Commander Ivan Balhatchet, said:
“FGM is a barbaric and violent crime enacted on girls who suffer the results for the rest of their lives. It is child abuse, and no religion, culture or tradition should be allowed to mitigate or make an excuse for such appalling crimes. It is even more traumatic because it is generally committed or facilitated by their families who they should look to for love and protection.
“FGM is hugely complex to investigate and prosecute. Frequently, the survivor is unwilling to give evidence against those closest to them, and some cases of FGM occur prior to the arrival of the survivor in the UK.
“The US shares our goal of eradicating FGM but faces the same challenges. This agreement will help both the UK and US learn more about FGM, the routes taken by perpetrators and when and where it is committed; this is particularly important because we know that perpetrators continue to adapt to evade detection. We also want this agreement and our joint operations to send a signal those planning to commit FGM that we will do everything we can to protect girls and prosecute offenders.
“FGM is not something we cannot eradicate alone. We need everyone who works with children and young people to be alert to signs of FGM, speak out and share information with us.”
Louis Rodi, Deputy Assistant Director, National Security Investigation Division, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations said:
“Our agency is committed to pursuing those who commit or allow female genital mutilation. Through outreach and investigations, we will work to eradicate this form of abuse.
“We value our partnerships with UK law enforcement as well as with other US federal agencies, including the FBI and US Customs and Border Protection. This collaboration strengthens our resolve to carry out this important work to protect women and girls and investigate crimes against them.”
Immigration Minister, Caroline Nokes, said:
“FGM is a abhorrent crime that no woman or girl should ever have to suffer, and this Government is taking world-leading action to tackle it.
“We have significantly strengthened the law on FGM, including introducing a new offence of failing to protect a girl from FGM, extending the reach of extra territorial offences, and creating civil FGM Protection Orders to ensure we are able to protect women and girls at the earliest opportunity.
“The partnership with our US counterparts recognises that FGM is a global issue that transcends borders. As well as enforcement, we continue to raise awareness of this harmful practice through safeguarding operations such as Operation Limelight which sees police and Border Force proactively engage individuals travelling to or from the UK to countries where FGM is prevalent.
“Corresponding operations at Heathrow, JFK and other major hubs as part of Operation Limelight is a sign of our commitment to ending this barbaric practice internationally.”
Barnardo's Chief Executive, Javed Khan, said:
"We know the pressure for girls to undergo female genital mutilation very often comes from family members overseas, and results in children being flown abroad so it can take place. The National FGM Centre, run in partnership with Barnardo’s and the Local Government Association, works with affected communities in the UK to prevent this procedure.
“It is vital agencies across the world work together to protect girls from this type of abuse, which is why the signing of this intelligence sharing agreement between the UK and the US is so important.
“It drives home the message that FGM and other harmful practices are treated seriously, not just in the UK but also in the States and we will take the necessary steps to end these unacceptable and illegal practices.”