The Foreign Office has been branded “morally repugnant” for charging forced marriage victims for their own rescue as Jeremy Hunt pledged to investigate the policy.
The foreign secretary said Britain should always act with “compassion and humanity” after MPs criticised the practice of recouping the cost of helping citizens return home.
Victims must pay for their plane ticket, food and shelter themselves, or – if they are over 18 – they can take out emergency loans from the government, according to an investigation by The Times.
“We must always behave with compassion and humanity and look at these situations on an individual basis,” he said.
“The important thing to say here is we are very good at getting these girls and women home after the terrible ordeal of a forced marriage.
“We’re known for the fact we have this huge diplomatic network around the world that is very, very good at helping Brits in distress and situations like this.”
According to the Times, four young British women were sent by their families to a “correctional school” in Somalia in 2018, where they were imprisoned and physically abused.
They were charged £740 each and reportedly left destitute by the loans – and The Times was told that two of them were now living in refuges since returning to the UK, while two had become drug addicts.
Women who have taken out loans have had their passports cancelled, and were told they cannot get a new one until the debt is repaid.
A 10% surcharge is also added if the emergency loan is not repaid within six months.
Mr Hunt, who is in Singapore at the start of a three-day visit to Asia, said he wanted “to get to the bottom” of the issue.