A woman has been arrested at Heathrow Airport for conspiracy to commit Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
The woman is a British national born in Sierra Leone. She was arrested following a week-long initiative at Heathrow Airport aimed at preventing and detecting FGM.
The 38-year-old woman was arrested on 8th May 2014, having arrived at Heathrow on a flight from Sierra Leone. She was taken to a west London police station where she remains in custody.
Officers from the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), Border Force and the National Crime Agency (NCA) concluded the week of action entitled Operation Limelight on 9th May 2014.
A 13-year-old Sierra-Leonean girl travelling with the woman was taken into the care of social services.
A Nigerian female was also taken into the care of social services as a potential victim of trafficking. Her age has yet to be established. An investigation is ongoing by Border Force but is not related to FGM offences.
During last Friday’s initiative, officers spoke to 36 individuals who had alighted from two flights from Nigeria and from Liberia, via Sierra Leone.
Operation Limelight is a pro-active airside operation looking at inbound and outbound flights to ‘countries of prevalence’ for FGM. For the first time, the operation was implemented as a co-ordinated National Week of Action with six other UK Airports and a number of police forces.
Officers from Project Azure, the MPS response to tackling FGM, and SO18 Aviation Command, worked with partner organisations including British Airways and Heathrow Airport Ltd to undertake a combination of educational and enforcement activities.
The activities included delivering enhanced training about FGM to officers and staff who work at Heathrow Airport to raise awareness of the practice and identify those affected.
Survivors of FGM also attended to support the operation, providing strategic advice and witness first-hand how the MPS and BF tackle this issue.
Detective Chief Superintendent Keith Niven of the Metropolitan Police Sexual Offences, Exploitation and Child Abuse Command, said: “FGM is illegal and constitutes child abuse. Many communities are familiar with the practice but not of its health risks, the fact that it is illegal within the UK or that there is no religious basis to it.”
Through the Operation Limelight, Detective Chief Superintendent Niven said they “hope to educate and prevent anyone who may engage in this practice, as well as highlighting the support that is available for victims subjected to this horrific offence.”
Samantha Rigler, head of the Border Force Heathrow Safeguarding and Trafficking team, said: “We are clear that FGM is child abuse, it is illegal and there can be no excuse for it. Through operations like this we will continue to work with the Metropolitan Police Service to identify and protect victims or potential victims, and stop the perpetrators.”
Other forces which took part in the operation included Essex, Avon and Somerset, GMP, West Yorkshire, Sussex and West Midlands.