Airline staff are being told that girls who appear upset, uncomfortable or under oppressive parental control might have suffered FGM abroad — and that they should immediately alert UK Border Force staff.
The aim is to allow checks by specialist immigration teams when the children and their families land in Britain so that any adults responsible for mutilation can be detained, and for help to be given to victims.
Other girls found to be at risk will be taken into care and only returned to their families once safeguarding staff and police judge that it is safe to do so.
The new strategy, which was being deployed today on airlines using Gatwick, is focusing on flights to and from destinations such as The Gambia and other west African countries where FGM is legal or widely practised.
Other flights using “hubs” such as Dubai and Istanbul are being targeted because of concern that they might be carrying victims or girls at risk.
Passenger lists on inbound flights are also being scrutinised by UK Border Force teams to identify girls and families about whom information has been received from the public, police or others involved in trying to combat FGM.
In such cases, immigration staff will question the girls and their families to establish whether FGM has taken place or is likely if action is not taken.
Stuart Percival, the head of the UK Border Force safeguarding team for tackling FGM, said the new methods had already led to two girls being taken into temporary care.
FGM has been illegal in Britain since 1985. Since 2003, it has also been a crime to carry out the practice overseas.]]>