UK Somali teenagers taken ‘on holiday’ and forced into marriage

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British Somali teenagers are being taken back to their parents’ homeland under the pretence of a holiday and then kept in detention centres before being forced into marriages.

Under the practice of dhaqan celis, loosely translated as “the rehabilitation community”, Somali children and teenagers are routinely taken to the country, where they are often sent to “rehabilitation” centres.

The centres promote themselves as “re-education” schools to align young people with Somali cultural values and their Somali roots. The Home Office, however, says they tend not to deliver an academic curriculum and are in fact detention centres where young people are routinely subjected to physical, sexual and mental abuse. In some cases, those held against their will are told the only way out is to get married.

David Myers, joint head of the Home Office’s forced marriage unit (FMU) in the UK, said: “What we are seeing in these communities is that young people who have antisocial behaviour issues, are getting involved in gangs and drugs, and are being sent back to Somalia by their parents for re-education and rehabilitation.

“The concept in Somali culture, dhaqan celis, means returning to the culture to help them rehabilitate and they are sent to what they call schools but what we call detention centres. We have had reports of physical abuse, mental abuse, sexual abuse within these centres, where they are kept in really strict conditions.

“These teenagers and children are told that the only way they can escape these centres is to get married to another Somalian and that is where the forced marriage element comes into it.”

The latest figures show there has been a 100% year-on-year increase in the number of forced marriage cases handled by Home Office involving Somali children and teenagers. In 2017, the figure rose to 91, more than India.

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