The UK Foreign Office announced that it would reverse its policy of charging victims of forced marriage “rescue fees” following a massive public outcry.
An investigation by The Times last week revealed that British women and girls taken abroad for forced marriages were forced to take out emergency loans from the government to cover their flights, food, and shelter. Victims’ passports were taken away until the loans were repaid.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt now admits that victims “may have endured particular suffering” from the old policy, adding that the government will write off victims’ existing loans and return their passports to them.
The BBC reports:
Mr Hunt said the Foreign Office would try to get most repatriation costs covered by imposing so-called Forced Marriage Protection Orders on the people and families who arranged the forced marriage.
But the small number who would have had to take out a loan will now have their repatriation costs paid for by the Foreign Office.
Between 2016 and 2017, 82 people were repatriated with the support of the government’s Forced Marriage Unit. Of those victims, between 8 and 12 had to take out loans.
When the Times reported the practice, MPs condemned the loans as “astonishing” and “immoral”.
“Whereas the Foreign Office rightly expects that adult Britons who receive consular assistance will, in general, pay for their own travel home, victims of forced marriage may have endured particular suffering,” explained Mr. Hunt in a letter to the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom Tugendhat.
“They will often have travelled abroad against their wishes, or under false pretences…Our treatment of vulnerable Britons abroad should always be guided by compassion.”