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Victim of forced marriage aged two
Young people between the ages of 16 and 25 are most at risk of being forced into marriage in the UK - with children as young as two being targeted.
The Forced Marriage Unit, set up by the the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, said it helped in 1,485 cases of possible forced marriage last year, involving 60 different countries across Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and North America.
The statistics for 2012 show that of the 744 cases where the age was known, over 600 involved young people under the age of 26. Thirteen per cent involved victims under 15 years old, while 22% involved 16 or 17-year-olds. The oldest victim was 71 and the youngest was just two.
The majority of cases investigated abroad, where the location was known, were in Pakistan (47%), while the majority of those from within the UK were in London (21%).
Home Office Minister for Crime Prevention Jeremy Browne said: "Forced marriage is a devastating form of abuse that is absolutely unacceptable in our society. The new figures show an alarming number of victims, including the young and vulnerable. It is vital we protect them. By criminalising forced marriage the Government is sending a strong message that this terrible practice will not be tolerated."
The unit, set up in 2005, offers help to potential victims in the UK and to British nationals abroad, as well as offering advice to professionals.
Foreign Office Minister for Consular Policy Mark Simmonds said: "Forcing someone to marry is an appalling and indefensible practice which is why the Government is committed to eliminating it, with young people particularly vulnerable.
"We will use every means at our disposal, whether it's engaging with schools and communities or through using mobiles and social media to reach potential victims. We want those who are worried about forced marriage to know that there is help out there."
Freedom Charity is launching a new smartphone app designed to provide information about forced marriage with links to where potential victims can get help and professionals can access information. The free app, which has been part-funded by the Forced Marriage Unit, is available to download on the iPhone and for Android.
Freedom Charity founder Aneeta Prem said: "It is more important than ever that everyone in the UK is aware of the warning signs of a forced marriage."