Tuesday 27 December 2016

Foreign Office Handed Over £814 Bill To A Force Marriage Victim

Foreign Office

The Foreign Office has been accused of making victims of forced marriage pay the government in order to be brought to the UK.

According to a letter seen and reported by the Guardian, sent to the FCO on behalf by a Muslim women’s charity, a British teenager who asked the British embassy in Islamabad for help escaping a forced marriage in 2014 was issued a bill for £814.

The then-17-year-old, who cannot be named for her own safety, was also required to sign a loan agreement and surrender her passport before she was flown back to the UK. She won’t get her passport back until she has paid the money.

The girl was taken to Pakistan at the age of 16, in 2013, and forced into a violent marriage.

Eventually she managed to find an excuse to visit the embassy in Islamabad in 2014, where she pleaded for help. Her husband was waiting outside with a gun the entire time.

Although she was too young at the time to get a bank loan in the UK, she had to sign the loan agreement as she couldn’t cover the £814 costs herself, and she wasn’t able to ask her family for help.

Since then, without a passport, she has found it difficult to find work or study.

Shaista Gohir, chair of the Muslim Women’s Network UK, wrote to the Foreign Office saying the policy of making victims cover the costs of their own repatriation would ‘put off victims from asking for help’.

‘It is unacceptable that a victim should have no option but to remain in a forced marriage because he or she cannot afford to pay for their escape,’ she wrote in the letter.

‘The last thing a forced marriage victim needs when having already become estranged from family, with no support or security and with very limited financial resources [I understand she is in receipt of benefits] is to then have demands being made for repayments that they cannot afford, and were accrued through no fault of their own.’

In response, Foreign Office minister Tobias Ellwood said tehy ‘understand the risks’, but that they ‘cannot pay for repatriations’ because they are not funded to do so.

‘I would also ask that you reassure [the teenager] that the FcO will not pursue this through the courts,’ he added.



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