The Forced Marriage Unit in the Uk works extremely hard to ensure safety for British citizens who have been forced into marriage abroad, and in the UK. They have come to understand that force does not only embody the physical aspect but also the non – physical, psychological aspects of it- blackmail, ostracising and mental abuse.
Governments have put emphasis on educating social services, community leaders and teachers about the crime of forced marriage, how to spot it, what to except and how to react, which is why we were particularly shocked by the revelation that young women being rescued by the Forced Marriage Unit at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office were being expected to pay for their own travel home from their horrific ordeal abroad.
The Government was providing loans to victims seeking a return to the UK, which would be paid back over a period of time. It is essential to note- these individuals, often women, are not asking to be returned from holiday but a traumatic ordeal, these women were taken abroad to be forced into a life with a person they objected, and finally, it is essential to note that these women fundamentally did not want to be there, but were ultimately kidnapped against their will.
Jess Philips, MP and chair of the Women’s PLP wrote that the “The worst aspect of this policy is that the UK Government is considerably more generous to foreign victims of human trafficking or forced marriage when they are discovered in the UK. The Home Office is more than happy to pay the cost of plane tickets to get them home to wherever they came from.”
She continued to write that, “We don’t mind paying to get people out of our country, we seem less keen to get people back.”
— Jess Phillips (@jessphillips) January 2, 2019
Paying back a £700 airfare may not be seen an obscene amount, but imagine being a young girl who has been taken out of school to a foreign country, on arrival you find out you will be forced into marriage following potential bribery, and physical and mental abuse you contact the embassy for help, against the wishes of your parents. You are brought back to the UK, now with no family to support you, no completed education, no permanent roof over your head in a women’s refugee in solitude. £700 seems a lot more now, it might even be enough to discourage the young girl from seeking help in the first place.
The survivors of forced marriage are victims of a crime, not unhappy holiday makers, disappointed with the condition of the air conditioning and depth of the mattress, they must be treated as victims of crime, safeguarded against further exploitation not have their passport removed until they repay airfare.