Nadeem Badshah in the Guardian has highlighted the case of a taxi driver who picked up and returned fugitive women to their families. The women, many of whom were fleeing forced marriages or other ‘honour’-based violence, were ambushed by Zakir in return for payments of around £5,000:
While most locals in the tightly knit south Asian community thought Zakir was merely picking up and dropping off passengers each day, his work provided perfect cover to exploit his contacts with fellow drivers and shopkeepers to hunt down runaway teenagers. According to Zakir, some bounty hunters would also befriend officials in housing departments and in the Department for Work and Pensions to get National Insurance numbers – a strategy confirmed by campaigners against forced marriages.
The links with the DWP confirms other, earlier investigations, as often even an entry-level worker will have access to details of hundreds of people in the local area, and can get at those details with just a name/date of birth, without being detected. Nor is Zakir unique, as plenty of other bounty hunters operate in this manner; the article points out that some female bounty hunters will infiltrate women’s refuges posing as victims in order to find their targets.
What can be done about this? Heavy prosecutions are the obvious answer, but how can you stop, for example, DWP workers accessing personal data (even if they cannot transfer it to anything, they can write it down manually), and how can this be monitored?
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Filed in: 'Honour'-based violence