Jeremy Hunt scraps fees charged to forced marriage victims following row
Ministers are to immediately stop charging victims of forced marriage for the cost of their return to the UK, it has been announced.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said young women would no longer be forced to fork out for their flights, shelter and food, with the bill instead going to their parents where possible and otherwise being picked up by his deprtment.
The Times revealed earlier this month that victims of exploitation without the necessary funds had been made to sign loan agreements with the Foreign office and have their passports confiscated until the debt is paid.
If the cash was not received by the authorities within six months of their return, then 10% was added to the charge.
Mr Hunt said that all victims with outstanding loans would have them cancelled and their passports returned as part of the "immediate policy change".
“Victims of forced marriage are exceptionally vulnerable and face terrible ordeals,” he said.
“Changes in the areas rightly highlighted by The Times are an important part of improving our work. I believe this change is the right and compassionate way forward.”
A young woman who was repatriated from Somalia in 2017 and made to take out a loan of £740 by the government’s Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) told the paper: “This is great news. The charges have been a huge burden, which has now been lifted. This gives victims hope that people are listening and care.”
The policy was criticised by Foreign Affairs Committee chair Tom Tugendhat, while Home Affairs Committee chair Yvette Cooper branded it “appalling”.
Mr Tugendhat said of the change: “This is a hugely welcome change. The trafficked victims of forced marriage should never have been charged for their rescue.”