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Cabbie’s shock as police probe FGM concerns for his daughter

Father tells how he faced questions in response to ‘mark’ seen on girl, aged 2

26 February, 2021 — By Calum Fraser

A BLACK cab driver says he was left humiliated after police officers arrived at his house unannounced to investigate concerns that his daughter may have been a victim of female genital mutilation (FGM).

The father-of-three, who was born in Somalia but moved to Islington more than 20 years ago, said he was left in shock when the officers, along with a social worker, knocked on his door earlier this month.

They proceeded to tell him that the school where his two-year-old daughter had only recently started attending its early years provision, had made a referral after seeing a “mark” on her.

The 46-year-old said he was bewildered by the suggestions and did not understand why the school had not contacted him to explain their fears.

Eventually, he had to take his daughter to a gynaecologist at University College London Hospital (UCLH) where they recorded that there was “no physical evidence” that the procedure had occurred.

The case is no longer being pursued.

“The police coming to my door has left us all psychologically affected,” the man said.

“My wife and I have been talking about this for days, asking why the school suspected us, why they didn’t contact us, why did this happen to us? I am not a criminal and the school has made an assumption against my family.

“My son, he is six, and he asked me today, ‘are the police coming back?’

“I have never been stopped by the police or anything. I am very angry and shocked. We have not even had an apology.”

The father reached out to friends in the Somali community to ask if others had experienced the same scenario – they confirmed that they had.

He said he was told by a consultant at UCLH that the majority of referrals they received for under-18s came back with the same finding as that for his daughter.

“I would never do this to my daughter,” the father said. “I am not the only one who has experienced this. The doctor said there are so many cases of children being sent and there is never a case where FGM has happened. Our children are clean. FGM is a human violation but our community is being discriminated against.”

He added: “We must unite as a community now to show we are clean and to fight against this prejudice.”

Holloway ward councillor Rakhia Ismail said: “There needs to be more consultation with the Somali community and a better understanding of our lives here. The problem is when authorities make assumptions.”

FGM, which is believed to have originated around north-east Africa almost 2,000 years ago, is a procedure where a woman or girl undergoes circumcision.

A police spokeswoman said: “FGM is a significant concern shared by police and other agencies which safeguard children.

“We are committed in our efforts to identify young people at risk of this illegal practice and take appropriate action.

“Often the victims do not recognise what is happening and don’t have the means or opportunity to report. As such police and partners have to take a proactive approach in their response to FGM and remain professionally curious.

“The practice can have a life-changing impact on a young person, so where concerns are raised an investigation must ensue.

“We work closely with our partners to ensure this happens.”

A council spokesperson said “ensuring the safety of Islington’s children and young people is a top priority for the council and its partners”, adding: “We have full confidence that in this case, the referral was handled correctly and with appropriate sensitivity by the school, children’s social care and the police.

“We understand that this experience, while necessary, can be distressing for families and do everything possible to minimise this and explain what is happening.”

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