Duncan Lewis Solicitors were successful in an application for a Female Genital Mutilation Protection Order (FGMPO) to protect our client’s daughter who was at risk of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the UK and if she were to be removed to a non-disclosable country in Africa by the Home Office. The mother and father of the child in these proceedings are nationals of an African country. We represented the Applicant Mother who wanted to obtain an FGMPO to protect her daughter, now four years old. As a child in Africa, the Mother underwent FGM, it is common practice for children in the Mother’s tribe to undergo the procedure. All of the Mother’s female family members in Africa have been subjected to FGM, including one of her cousins who died as a result of the procedure. Despite fleeing Africa and moving to the UK, the Mother is still haunted by the effects FGM has upon her.
Whilst in the UK, the parents reported the risk their daughter faces to the police and the local authority, however no action was taken other than for the parents to sign a Working Agreement, agreeing not to subject the child to FGM.
It was necessary for the client to make an application to the family courts for a FGMPO due to escalating threats from family members in Africa to arrange for the procedure to be carried out in the UK.
Before commencing proceedings, the Mother’s immigration application was refused and her appeal rights were exhausted. The immigration courts determined that there was no risk of FGM to the child and the family were expected to be removed back to Africa, where they maintained their daughter would be at a high risk of FGM.
Due to the parents’ lack of immigration status in the UK, the local authority were reluctant to help.
In our experience, this type of situation is becoming common in FGM cases. Despite there being such a high risk to the child, the local authorities feel unable to intervene because of decisions that have already been made by the immigration courts.
The police, although in support of the application, were also unable to assist because the family members posing the risk to the child were in Africa.
After only three hearings the court made a final FGMPO to protect the child from the risk of FGM.
It was also agreed that the local authority will meet with the family and arrange for a safety plan to be put in place, with the assistance from the police.
This case outlines the difficult decision the family courts and the authorities have to make when considering a case that conflicts with proceedings in the immigration courts. Although the client is pleased with the order made by the family court, she is still hoping to resolve the family’s immigration issues and hopes that the Home Office and the immigration courts will now accept the serious risk of FGM to her daughter as accepted by the family courts.
The Applicant Mother was represented by family law solicitor Emily Alice Reed based in our Manchester office and caseworker Natalie Bapty based in our Bradford office. Counsel Gurpreet Rheel of Cornwall Street Barristers was instructed.