Latest modern slavery fight updates -

Forced Marriage Victims Charged Rescue Fee

  • Published on
    January 1, 2019
  • News Source Image
  • Category:
    Forced Marriage, Rehabilitation & Liberation
Hero Banner

Young women and girls who are sent abroad by their families for forced marriage are being charged hundreds of pounds by the UK government to secure their rescue.

Data released under the Freedom of Information Act reveals that the Foreign Office helped repatriate 27 victims of forced marriage last year, but their rescues came at a steep cost.

Related Campaign: Speak up against forced child marriage

British victims of forced marriage who seek help from the Foreign Office are made to pay hundreds of pounds for their flight home as well as fees for basic food and shelter. Victims who are 18 or older have to sign emergency loan agreements with the government, and their passports are confiscated until they repay their rescue fee.

And if they can’t pay the fees back in six months, the government will tack on an extra 10% to the bill.

The Times reports:

In April 2017 police in Somaliland, an autonomous region in northern Somalia, raided a boarding school after Jasmin Osman, who was sent to the school when she was 19, escaped and called for help. They found 25 young women from across Europe and the US, including seven from Britain, who had been sent there by parents concerned that they were becoming too westernised.

Other punishments included being locked in coffin-like enclosures with tiny airholes, soaked with cold water overnight, left in their own excrement, made to stare directly at the sun and being chained to walls. They were told that they could leave only if they got married.

Four of the seven British victims were over 18 so had to fund their repatriation. They did not have their passports so were given emergency travel documents. Those given loans were told that they could not apply for new passports until they had repaid their debt.

One of the victims, a 24-year-old woman from London, explained that the government rescue fees have been a massive burden.

“I am trying my best to move on but I’m in debt, I’m struggling. I’ve been put up in a B&B and I’m worried I’ll be homeless,” she said.

“I can’t ask my family for help because of what I was put through. You can’t work without a passport. I called one of the women from the Foreign Office numerous times but she said I had to pay back the money.”

Some victims of forced marriage have turned to local charity Southall Black Sisters. Its founder, Pragna Patel, stressed that “These are vulnerable young women who have been taken abroad through no fault of their own and forced into slavery and yet they are being asked to pay for their protection. Protecting victims from forced marriage must be seen as a fundamental right and not a profit-making business.”

The Foreign Office charges repatriation fees to victims of forced marriage in the same way it does for tourists who get in trouble abroad.

A spokesman from the Foreign Office said that their priority was getting victims to safety, but “Given these are from public funds, we have an obligation to recover the money.”


Freedom United is interested in hearing from our community and welcomes relevant, informed comments, advice, and insights that advance the conversation around our campaigns and advocacy. We value inclusivity and respect within our community. To be approved, your comments should be civil.

stop icon A few things we do not tolerate: comments that promote discrimination, prejudice, racism, or xenophobia, as well as personal attacks or profanity. We screen submissions in order to create a space where the entire Freedom United community feels safe to express and exchange thoughtful opinions.

Notify of
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Sebastian Birch
Sebastian Birch
5 years ago

British passports, “in the name of Her Majesty” “requires all those whom it may concern….to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary”. How on earth can confiscation of that very passport, with the disempowerment and destitution that that entails, be compatible with that? The hypocrisy is obscene.

Marvin Feil
5 years ago

Charging for a rescue is immoral in almost all cases. Lifeguards don’t even do it on posted beaches.

Freedom United
5 years ago
Reply to  Dagmar Gross

Dagmar – Very often they’re told they are going “on holiday” and don’t know (or aren’t certain) they are in danger before they leave. It’s a very difficult choice for a minor to report their own parents to the authorities, and probably natural for them to believe the best of them.

– Katina, Freedom United staffer

5 years ago

If the girls had a British or European passport that was taken away from them, that is the same as being stolen. Surely, the foreign and passport offices can reissue a new one, so that they can start to work in reputable careers. If they resided in the UK before they were sent away, why are they being treated as “outsiders”? Can they take out student grants to help them to fund housing and education and work part-time?

How could I learn more?

Elie Niedermann
Elie Niedermann
5 years ago

You should get the money from the ‚sender‘… not the ‚parcle‘… it would help slowing down the traffic 🙂

This week

Rounded up and abandoned: Europe’s covert support of migrant atrocities

It is well documented that inhumane immigration policies are forcing migrants to take extremely risky routes on their journey to seek asylum in Europe and globally. However, a year-long investigation by the Washington Post, Lighthouse Reports, and a consortium of international media outlets uncovered that migrant lives are not just at risk due to sketchy channel crossings and being packed in the back of refrigerator trucks. To dissuade sub-Saharan

| Wednesday May 22, 2024

Read more