(CNSNews.com)— In an effort to raise awareness about the brutal practice of female genital mutilation (or cutting) in some foreign countries and by certain communities in the United States, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement division’s Homeland Security Investigations has launched Operation Limelight at multiple airports around the country.
ICE’s focus is at airports where there often are larger numbers of people traveling who belong to communities where female genital mutilation (FGM) is prevalent, this includes many Muslim communities and a few Christian sects in Africa. Some of the countries where FGM is practiced include Yemen, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Oman, UAE, Qatar, Sudan, Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Mali and Indonesia.
There have been a few reported cases of FGM, also referred to as female circumcision or cutting, in the United States. FGM has no health benefits and can cause “lifelong consequences including chronic infection, severe complications during childbirth, mental health and even death,” said ICE in a press release.
ICE-HIS is running Operation Limelight at JFK International, Newark International, Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International, Washington’s Dulles International Airport, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and the Los Angeles International Airport.
“Our aim here is three-fold regarding this brutal practice,” said Brett Dreyer, assistant special in charge at HSI Newark. “Enforcement is a key piece here, but so is outreach and prevention. This is why we have partnered with other government agencies, NGOs and, most importantly, survivors and advocates from the community to share knowledge and resources so we may collectively end this practice.”
“As part of Operation Limelight USA, special agents, who have completed FGM-related training, speak to passengers flying to or from high-risk countries, offering informational brochures and identifying potential victims and violators of FGM,” said ICE.
“These discussions both educate passengers on the consequences of involvement in FGM and provide passengers with a means by which to refer cases or receive victim assistance,” said ICE.
Federal law “prohibits individuals from conducting, assisting, attempting or conspiring to conduct FGM in the United States or facilitating the international travel to perform FGM abroad on female children, under age 18,” stated ICE. “Additionally, 26 states, including New Jersey, have specifically outlawed FGM, and for the remaining 24 states, FGM would fall under existing child abuse statutes.”
In 2016, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimated that around 200 million women living today have undergone FGM. In addition, an estimated 513,00 girls and women are at risk of FGM in the United States, according to the CDC.
According to ICE, members of the public who have information about individuals suspected of engaging in human rights abuses, to include FGM, are urged to call the HSI tip line at – 1-866-DHS-2423 (1-866-347-2423).