Community, Diaspora and Immigration

Disabled UK women used in sham asylum marriages

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This shocking practice is becoming more common

A charity has called for action to stop the disturbing practice of women with learning disabilities being pressed into marriages with men fighting to remain in the UK.

This awful practice has become more common in recent years with 114 cases reported in 2012 – up from 26 in 2009.

The call comes after details of two cases recently emerged, one of which involved a woman in her late teens being married to a Pakistani student just two months after he had exhausted his rights of appeal to remain in the country. Days after their wedding, the man claimed asylum saying he “feared he would be killed by his family who disapproved of his marriage to a white British woman.”

Mr Justice Keehan, who heard the case, agreed that the woman was not able to consent to marriage and ruled it a ‘non-marriage’. The man was refused asylum and deported in 2012.

The second case also centred on a student from Pakistan, this time marrying a woman in her 30s six weeks after his application to remain was refused. The woman’s stepfather was paid £20,000 ‘in consideration’ of the marriage, and she became pregnant almost immediately afterwards. The judge ruled the woman lacked ‘sufficient understanding’ to consent to marriage, while her husband is using his human right to family life as his reason to stay in the UK. This case is ongoing.

Asha Jama, the manager of an east London refuge for women with learning disabilities, said that these vulnerable women are being targeted by organised gangs, and that registrars should be trained to spot the signs of this type of forced marriage. She also advised that teachers and other professionals working with vulnerable women should be shown what the danger signs are and how to spot them, “Someone might say they are going on holiday, or they are going to get a new dress. It may be they are going to get married.”

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