Without her passport, the teenage forced marriage victim is struggling to find work AFP/Getty
The system where forced marriage victims have to cover the costs of their repatriation or borrow money from the Foreign Office remains
by Henry Austin
A British teenager who was forced to marry a man in Pakistan by her family, was ordered to pay for the cost of her repatriation by the Foreign Office, prompting criticism from campaigners and questions about how many others have incurred similar charges.
The 19-year-old, who cannot be named for her own safety, was just 16 when she was married, according to Shaista Gohir OBE, the chair of the Muslim Women’s Network charity, which has been helping her.
She said “he was a very violent man who kept weapons in their home”, Ms Gohir told The Independent.
Shortly after she turned 17, the teenager fooled her husband into thinking that she needed to go to the British embassy in Pakistan’s capital city, Islamabad, to sign some paperwork.
This woman wrote an open letter to the man who tried to rape her
After warning her not to try anything, he waited outside with a gun, but she nonetheless explained her situation to embassy staff and they arranged for her transfer back to the UK.
Before she could fly back to the UK she was required to sign a loan agreement and surrender her passport to them, Ms Gohir said.
She was subsequently issued with a bill for £814 – the cost of her repatriation – and told it will not be returned until the money is repaid.
Returning to the different city away from her family, she has been placed into safe accommodation where she lives on benefits.
Were she to return home she would run the risk of “honour based violence” and “intense emotional pressure from her family”, Ms Gohir said.
Although she has applied for jobs, she has been hampered by a lack of available identification. The Foreign Office will hold her passport until the £814 is paid and she has been unable to get a driving licence without her birth certificate, which her family have.
“She’s stuck,” Ms Gohir said. “We’ve written a letter to try and find out how much interest she is paying and other details of the case.”
She added: “I can’t understand why they can’t send the bill to her family. After all they were the people who put her in that position in the first place.”
Demanding the payment was not only morally wrong, but would likely force victims to go back to their families, she said.
The system requiring victims have to cover the costs of their repatriation or borrow money from the Foreign Office remains in place, despite legislation criminalising forced marriage being pushed through by Theresa May during her time as home secretary.
However, a system whereby victims have to cover the costs of their repatriation or borrow money from the Foreign Office remains in place…