Revealed: Government's 'heartless' treatment of forced marriage victims

Traumatised British citizens told to take out loans to pay for flights home

British citizens who have been forced into marriages overseas are being asked to cover the costs of their repatriation to the UK, The Independent has learnt.



The victims, many of whom will have been through violent and traumatic ordeals by the time they reach British officials, are being asked to cover the cost of their flights back to the UK, either out of their own pocket or by finding a friend who is willing to pay for them.

Under guidelines distributed by the Forced Marriage Unit to civil servants and diplomats abroad, victims who cannot find enough cash are even being asked to take out a low interest loan which will only be given to them if they surrender their passport until the loan is fully repaid.

The emergence of the guidelines comes just days after The Independent revealed that two of Britain’s most prominent charities working with victims of forced marriages have had their Government funding slashed. The Honour Network, which runs Britain’s only national helpline for forced marriage victims, and the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation are now reliant on public donations and say they will have to begin cutting vital services unless more money can be found.

Opposition politicians last night attacked the repatriation methods as “heartless” and said that confiscating a victim’s passport until a loan was repaid was a tactic “reminiscent of those used by people traffickers.”

Baroness Warsi, the Conservative Party’s most senior Muslim politician, told The Independent last night: “Every forced marriage is a tragedy. These young people have already suffered enough. They have been betrayed by close friends and relatives, and now heartless ministers are asking them to pick up the bill for their rescue.”

The guidelines, which are contained in a 105-page document seen by The Independent entitled “Handling Cases of Forced Marriages”, were drawn up earlier this year and distributed to civil servants involved with forced marriage cases and victims of so-called “honour violence”.

In a chapter entitled “Repatriation”, officials working overseas are warned that many forced marriage victims will be “extremely traumatised and frightened” by the time they arrive or flee to British embassies. Those seeking the protection of their Government “may have been held against their will for many months or years…may have been raped…Sometimes they will have risked their life to escape.”

But on the same page the guidelines also advise officials to try and recoup the costs of repatriating the same people back to Britain. “The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is obliged to ask the person or trusted friends to fund the cost of repatriation,” the report states.

On the following page, embassy officials are advised what to do if the victims cannot pay for their own return home. “The Forced Marriage Unit in very exceptional circumstances may provide a loan from public funds to help the victims return to the UK, but only when all other avenues have been exhausted,” the guidelines state. “The victim will have to sign an agreement to pay the loan in full and will have to secure the loan by giving up their passport.

Once the loan is repaid in full, the person’s passport will be returned.” Campaigners have attacked the guidelines, saying that forcing a deeply traumatised victim to pay for their own repatriation punishes them for something that happened outside of their control and risks pushing vulnerable victims back into the hands of the same families they have tried so hard to escape from. “It’s insensitive and outrageous,” said Jasvinder Sanghera, a forced marriage survivor who went on to found Derby-based charity Karma Nirvana, which runs the Honour Network.

“Imagine if you were a British woman forced into a marriage in Pakistan. You do everything you can to escape your parents and arrive at the High Commission in Islamabad utterly terrified. You’ll be in a complete state, possibly alone from your family for the first time in months and British officials are asking you to pay for your journey back home.”

Mrs Sanghera was keen to stress that much of the work carried out by the Forced Marriage Unit abroad should be praised and regularly saved people’s lives. But she says charging victims to be repatriated was unacceptable. “If the victim is under 16 the costs will normally be covered by their Local Authority,” she said. “But we have come across a number of older teenagers who have been repatriated and have then struggled to pay back the loan. Many have been tempted to return to their parents – the same parents who thought it was acceptable to marry them off against their will in the first place.”

The Forced Marriage Unit, which is run jointly by the Home Office and the Foreign Office, receives approximately 1,600 calls every year, 300 of which result in repatriation. Pakistan, Bangladesh and India are the most common countries for British women to be forcibly married abroad in and all the embassies have a dedicated team that specialise in locating victims.

News
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Life and Style
tech
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
tv
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Graduate Pricing Analyst - 6 months / 1 year analytical experience

£20000 - £25000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Project Manager (retail, upgrades, rollouts)

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Project...

IT Specialist for a one month cover role

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: IC...

History Teacher

£7200 - £36000 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: Randstad Education is...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits