Forced marriage in the UK

Date: 10th January 2017
Category: Children in situations of exploitation

The UK has been condemned for its treatment of British victims of forced marriage overseas after it was revealed that it confiscates victims' passports until they pay off a loan for their own repatriation.

The admission came after a British teenager was married against her will to a man in Pakistan in 2013 and, after temporarily escaping, requested help to return to the UK from the country's embassy in Islamabad. Although the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) helped her return home they made her agree to take a loan of £814, the cost of her repatriation, and told her that her passport would not be returned until she had repaid the full amount. The FCO has claimed that, as it is not funded to repatriate victims, the loan system is used because victims of forced marriage can rarely turn to their parents for financial assistance.

Chair of the Muslim Women's Network UK helpline, Shaista Gohir, claimed that ordering payment from victims was morally wrong and counterproductive. In a letter to the FCO she wrote: "Your policy is likely to put off victims from asking for help, and 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."