News story

FGM: Border Force targets 'high risk' flights at Heathrow to stop female genital mutilation

Border Force, the Met Police, and the National Crime Agency carried out an initiative at Heathrow Airport, aimed at preventing and detecting cases of female genital mutilation (FGM).


Operation Limelight is a proactive airside operation looking at inbound and outbound flights to ‘countries of prevalence’ for FGM. For the first time the operation has been implemented as a co-ordinated national week of action with 6 other UK Airports and a number of police forces.

Female genital mutilation (FGM)

Officers from Project Azure - the Met Police response to tackling FGM - worked with partner organisations including British Airways and Heathrow Airport Ltd to undertake a combination of educational and enforcement activities, including:

  • Delivering enhanced training about FGM to officers and staff who work at Heathrow Airport to raise awareness of the practice and identify those affected
  • Preventative work with passengers on outbound flights to ‘countries of prevalence’, including distribution of health passports
  • Intelligence-led checks on passengers and searches of baggage
  • Engagement with passengers from communities affected by this crime
  • Identifying possible offences in order to take action against those responsible

FGM survivors

Survivors of FGM also attended to support the operation, providing strategic advice and witness first-hand how the Met Police and Border Force tackle this issue.

Samantha Rigler, head of the Border Force Heathrow Safeguarding and Trafficking team, said:

Border Force in the UK and abroad have been providing crucial extra intelligence and carrying out additional checks on passengers in support of this operation. Our specially trained safeguarding and trafficking officers have also been on hand to assist throughout.

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.

Child abuse

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.

By holding this week of action we intend to raise awareness within communities where these offences are prevalent, by engaging with passengers travelling to and from countries where FGM is practiced. We 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.

Other forces which took part in the operation included Essex, Avon and Somerset, Greater Manchester Police, West Yorkshire, Sussex and West Midlands.

Published 9 May 2014