A Commons inquiry was announced today after it was revealed that young women rescued from forced marriages abroad are being charged hundreds of pounds by the Foreign Office for their safe return to the UK.
Some women had their passports taken away and only returned when they paid off an emergency loan to cover flights and accommodation.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt promised to investigate and said such cases should be treated with “compassion”, though he gave no commitment to scrap the charges, handled by diplomats. But Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Commons foreign affairs select committee, told the Standard: “There is deep concern that victims should be paying for their own rescue. I am glad the Foreign Secretary is looking into this and I hope this is a bureaucratic mistake rather than a policy issue.”
Mr Hunt said he had asked officials for “proper advice” on the situation. He told Radio 4’s Today programme: “We should always behave with compassion and humanity in every situation but I want to get to the bottom of this particular issue before I give you a firm answer.” Experts said it was unlikely the Government would bring in a blanket exemption for victims of forced marriages, as it would be “difficult to draw a line” over other crime victims who seek help to get home. But embassies might be asked to return passports to people who need them to work and scrap a 10 per cent late repayments fee.