Wednesday, January 2, 2019

UK making forced marriage victims pay repatriation costs

The British government came under fire on Wednesday after it emerged that the foreign and commonwealth office (FCO) is charging victims of forced marriages to return home to the UK after their rescue overseas.

According to statistics from the UK’s Forced Marriage Unit, India ranks fourth among countries where victims are taken to be forced into marriage after Pakistan, Bangladesh and Somalia. In 2017, 82 male and female victims of forced marriage supported by the FMU were from India.

A Freedom of Information request by The Times newspaper found that any such victims must cover the cost of their plane ticket, food and shelter on being assisted by the government unit. If they are over 18, they can take out emergency government loans.

A spokeswoman for Britain’s foreign office said the government had an “obligation to recover the money” as it came from public funds. But campaigners said the charges, which sometimes ran into hundreds of pounds, were indefensible. “This charge is completely against the principles of helping the most vulnerable,” Aneeta Prem, founder of the Freedom charity which works against forced marriage, said. Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said he would “get to the bottom” of the issue to ensure his department was acting with “compassion and humanity”.
The Times probe found that many of the 82 victims repatriated by the government between 2016 to 2017 were asked to pay for their own flights, food and shelter. Since 2014, forced marriage has been a crime in UK carrying a maximum seven-year prison sentence. In the past two years, the foreign office has lent £7,765 to at least eight victims who could not pay for their repatriation. Around £3,000 has been repaid, although debts of over £4,500 are outstanding. A 10% surcharge is added if an emergency loan is not repaid within six months. AGENCIES

According to UK’s Forced Marriage Unit, India ranks fourth — after Pakistan, Bangladesh and Somalia — among nations where victims are taken to be forced into marriage

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