The Home Office is granting UK visas to the foreign husbands of British women and teenage girls forced into abusive marriages, and thus failing to protect British citizens, according to charities.
According to statistics, officials dealt with almost 90 cases of victims trying to block UK visas last year, but nearly half were still issued.
Some charities have suggested that UK immigration officials are “turning a blind eye” amid concerns over cultural or religious sensitivities, although the Home Office “categorically denies” these allegations.
According to information released under Freedom of Information laws, the Home Office received 175 inquiries about victims who wanted to block UK spouse visas in 2017 alone.
Just 88 of these became full cases, which included direct requests from victims, requests from third parties or instances where a forced marriage was suspected. UK visas were still issued in 42 cases, while in 10 more there is still a decision pending or an appeal to be heard.
There are also concerns among charities that the actual number of victims failing to prevent their husbands being granted UK visas is even higher than reported. This is due, they argue, to rules that require complainants to sign a public statement.
Founder of forced marriage victim support charity Karma Nirvana, Jasvinder Sanghera, argues that the government should be taking a more active role in tackling this issue.
Even when officials know it's a forced marriage, they see tradition, culture or religion and they're reticent to deal with it. They are turning a blind eye."