Critics have argued that protecting victims from forced marriage ‘should not be a profit-making business’

YOUNG women sent abroad by their families for forced marriages are being charged up to £740 by the government to be rescued, a disturbing investigation has revealed.

British survivors are being told by the Foreign Office that they will have to stump up the money for their flight home, as well as for basic food and shelter.

Figures released under Freedom of Information show the the department helped to repatriate 27 victims of forced marriage in 2017, and 55 in the previous year.

Despite the help, an investigation by The Times reveal how victims were on occasions left “destitute” once back in Britain.

Four young British women sent by their parents to a “correctional school” in Somalia were charged £740 each to come home after they were chained to walls, whipped with hosepipes and told they would be forced to get married.

Of these four, two were living in refuges, and two have become drug addicts since returning to the UK while unable to pay back the fines.

Any victim over 18 who cannot pay has to sign emergency loan agreements with the Foreign Office before boarding their flight home and have their passports confiscated until they repay.

If they do not clear their debt within six months, ten per cent is added to their bill.

The 25 young women discovered imprisoned at the facility in Somaliland in April 2017 had suffered multiple atrocities over the year they spent there.

They were kept in coffin-like enclosures with tiny airholes, soaked with cold water overnight and left in their own excrement.

The women were told that they could only leave if they got married.

As four of the seven British victims were over 18 they were forced to fund their repatriation to the UK.

One of the women, a 24-year-old from London, told The Times she was “struggling” with the debt.

“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.”

Five of the victims were supported by Southall Black Sisters, a charity helping women to escape forced marriages and “honour”-based violence.

Founder Pragna Patel said it was “not right” that women forced into slavery were 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,” she said.

In the past two years the Foreign Office has lent £7,765 to at least eight victims of forced marriage who were unable to fund being repatriated.

They have repaid about £3,000, with debts of £4,522 logged as outstanding.

A Foreign Office spokesman told The Sun Online that they can provide a loan to help someone return home “in exceptional circumstances”, including in cases of forced marriages overseas.

Offering support was the “primary concern”, he said, and victims would have to pay back the amount lent “as they are from public funds”.

The FMU statement adds: “The UK is a world-leader in the fight to tackle the brutal practice of forced marriage.

“When people contact us for help to return to the UK, we work with them to access their own funds, or help them contact friends, family or organisations that can cover the costs of returning to the UK.

“However, many of the victims who the Forced Marriage Unit help are vulnerable, and when offering any type of support their safety is our primary concern.”

A forced marriage is defined as one in which one or both spouses do not consent to the marriage and violence, threats or any other form of coercion is involved.

Established in 2005, the FMU is jointly run by the Home Office and Foreign Office.

Source: The Sun