The Home Office has come under scrutiny this week after failing to protect British women and teenage girls who have been forced into abusive marriages, through granting their foreign husbands visas.
Almost 90 cases of victims attempting to block visas last year were recorded by officials, although almost half were still issued. This has been revealed from data collected by the Times.
These women are both physically and sexually abused by their partners and these cases have gone unchallenged by authorities. A group have claimed that immigration officials have been “turning a blind eye” as they are concerned of being culturally or religiously insensitive.
Despite these accusations, the Home Office has categorically denied this allegation. Under the freedom of information laws figures were released that showed that 175 cases to try and block spouse visas last year. Of these, only 88 became full cases.
These included direct requests from the victims themselves, who are known as “reluctant sponsors”, as well as requests from third parties, for example where a forced marriage has been suspected.
These UK women have been forced to marry men from countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India.
For 42 of these cases, visas were still issues, while in 10 more the decision is still pending or an appeal is still being heard.
Karma Nirvana is a charity that has been set-up to help victims of forced marriage. The founder Jasvinder Sanghera told the Times that “even when officials know it’s a forced marriage, they see tradition, culture or religion and they’re recited to deal with it. They are turning a blind eye”
A law making it illegal to force somebody into marriage was introduced into England and Wales in 2014 and anybody who is caught doing so could be sent to prison for up to 7 years.