London, Jan 11 (IANS) British women forced into marriages abroad, mostly Pakistanis, will no longer be required to repay the government for the cost of helping them escape, according to the Foreign Secretary.
Instead, the government will use court orders to try to recover expenses for parts of the women’s rescue, like flights home and short-term shelter, from the people who sent them abroad – often their parents, the New York Times reported.
If those efforts are unsuccessful, the Foreign Office will cover the costs itself.
“Our treatment of vulnerable Britons abroad should always be guided by compassion,” Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in a letter on Tuesday. “So I am glad to make this policy change.”
The repayment policy, which applied to women of age 18 or older, was an extension of the government’s approach to British tourists or other citizens who get in trouble abroad and need consular help returning to the UK.
The biggest number of forced marriage cases was in Pakistan, the daily said.
In all, the Foreign Office helped bring home 82 survivors over 2016 and 2017. Hunt said that “only a small minority” had to sign loan agreements with the government; the rest, he said, were able to find others to pay the fees.