- Some 88 women in forced marriages tried to block their husband's UK visas
- Girls as young as 15 have been forced to marry abroad to bring men into the UK
- Almost half the applications were still granted despite the girls' objections
- One charity receives an estimated 13,000 calls a year about forced marriage
Figures revealed 88 women in forced marriages appealed to block visa applications last year, but almost half were still accepted by the Home Office.
Last night ministers were accused of ignoring the problem, amid claims the department was afraid of being labelled racist.
It is believed most teenagers who are forced into such marriages are taken to South Asia, where they are raped as families think having children will make it easier for the husband to obtain a visa.
Some of the men have also been accused of beating their wives and making them live ‘like slaves’ after they were allowed to settle in Britain.
Freedom of Information requests made by The Times found 42 visas had been issued to men whose case had been flagged to the department either by a wife or an official.
However, experts warn the number of victims may be far higher than recorded as wives are too scared to sign the public statement to block their spouse from getting a visa.
Charity Karma Nirvana told the paper it receives almost 13,000 phone calls each year about forced marriage.
Founder Jasvinder Sangehera accused officials of ‘turning a blind eye’ to the issue and said they are less likely to act when they see ‘tradition, culture or religion’.
Last night, a Welsh woman described being ‘dressed up like a doll’ and taken to Bangladesh, where her uncle had started a ‘bidding war’ for her hand in marriage.
Rubie Marie was 15 when she was married to a 30-year-old man, but her family said she was 16 on visa forms.
She told The Times: ‘If you have a red passport you are worth a lot.’
Rubie, who now works as a model, said she initially took the contraceptive pill at the start of her marriage, but soon became pregnant after her husband’s family found the medication.
She ran away after she gave birth to her first child and contacted the British High Commission in Bangladesh about her husband.
Despite initially struggling to get a visa, he tracked her down after getting a UK work permit in 2011. He was later deported.
Even though her ordeal ended six years ago, Rubie says the same things are happening to young girls.
She said: ‘Young girls are married off and then trapped because it’s too easy for the man to come over.’
The revelations came after Yvette Cooper yesterday told a home affairs select committee: ‘Despite being warned to do more to help victims of forced marriage, it looks as though the Home Office has failed and put victims at risk.’
Forced marriage was made illegal in 2014, and those convicted of the crime can spend up to seven years in prison.
Those who fear they could be at risk of being coerced into marriage can also apply for a forced marriage protection order.
The government advise victims or those at risk to contact the Forced Marriage Unit or call 999 in an emergency.
A Home Office spokesman said: ‘There are a number of reasons why cases are referred to the Forced Marriage Unit, not all of which are the result of a reluctant sponsor getting in contact.
‘In some cases it will be decided, following inquiries, that no further action is necessary and a visa will be issued.
‘If an individual refuses to act as the sponsor for a visa application then under the immigration rules, that visa should not be issued.’