by LAUREN CODLING
LEADING campaigners have urged the Home Office to act after it emerged around one thousand Pakistani women have been sent back to their native country and abandoned after having children for British husbands.
An investigation by The Sunday Times (23) found that some Pakistani brides were brought to the UK after having an arranged marriage, gave birth to children and were later duped by their husband to return to their native country.
The women are then abandoned by their spouses and the children are told that their mother is either dead or chose to leave them.
According to the newspaper, the Home Office “routinely blocks” mothers who try to re-enter the country as most migrated to the UK on a spouse visa.
This can be cancelled if the ministerial department is notified that the marriage has ended.
Research has shown that more than 1,000 Pakistani women have been affected since 2002, although it is estimated that the number could be higher.
Jasvinder Sanghera is a prominent campaigner for those suffering forced marriages and honour-based abuse. She told Eastern Eye on Tuesday (25) that she called the Home Office to acknowledge the issue and to ensure that every woman who enters the UK is
aware of her legal rights.
Women should also be aware of the support system they can reach out to, if they need it, Sanghera said.
“These women will have experienced abuses within these families before they were abandoned. This needs to be reported. They need to understand they will be supported
in the UK with their fears, one of which is that they will be separated from their children,” she said.
“Social services have a role to play here in asking questions of the mothers’ absence and recognising that families can gang up against the woman and make excuses for her absence.
“A child has the right to know who both parents are and the reasons for their absence. These will be growing questions as they grow older and social care has a duty to seek the real truth.”
While visiting the British Embassy in India approximately a decade ago, Sanghera recalled being approached by a group of women begging for help.
They were abandoned spouses, who had similar stories to those detailed in The Sunday Times.
“These women faced persecution in their home country as the reasons for why they were returned were questioned by family and communities,” Sanghera said.
“An abandoned woman in a village is a cause for gossip and ridicule, and the isolation is intense.”
Fellow campaigners have echoed similar sentiments to Sanghera. Aneeta Prem, founder of Freedom charity, and Natasha Rattu, executive director of Karma Nirvana, agreed that women sent back to Pakistan could face being ostracised from their community.
When wives are abandoned in their native country, many will face a “tragic life as social outcasts”, said Prem.
“It will be seen that it is the woman’s fault, that she has done something wrong, and that is why she has been abandoned and sent back,” Prem explained. She also highlighted the stigma that they faced when they came home.
“The term ‘second hand-goods’ is used… nobody wants you to marry you again as you’ve already had a child with someone else,” Prem told Eastern Eye.
Rattu, who revealed Karma Nirvana had received messages from victims facing similar difficulties, said they had encountered scenarios when the husband made derogatory allegations against the wife.
“(The husband has said) that the woman was not a good wife, that they’ve had affairs, or acted in a way that would be deemed inappropriate,” she said.
The allegations can put a risk on the victim if the behaviour is deemed to be dishonourable, Rattu added. The issue could also have a direct impact on the child who is left in the UK – they may grow up to believe false information about their mother and think they have been deserted.
“The child may grow to believe that it is true, but in reality the mother is unable to get back to the child,” Rattu told Eastern Eye. “It could have a very traumatic effect.”
Polly Harrar, the founder of the Sharan Project, agreed with Rattu. She spoke of the suffering that it could potentially cause to a child, including having feelings of resentment toward their biological mother. Some may even reject a parent, after being brainwashed against her.
“(It is worrying to think of) the impact of parental alienation, which can result in the psychological manipulation of a child to adopt unwarranted fears or feelings, hostility and even disrespect towards the abandoned mother, who in turn faces a life sentence of being
deliberately denied her parental rights,” Harrar told Eastern Eye.
She also revealed that the charity had also been approached by victims left in their native countries, with no way to access their children in the UK.
“The idea that women are viewed as a commodity to produce children and are then discarded is an absolute disgrace,” Harrar added.
Although the husbands’ motives were unclear, Prem suggested that some of the men may have been reluctant to get married in the first place.
For instance, the man could already have had a girlfriend and told he had been arranged to marry a woman from Pakistan. Although he may have agreed, he may have continued to live a dual life with his previous partner.
“It is a terrible exploitation of these poor women and girls,” she said. “We need to stop this from happening now.”
In response to the investigation, a Home Office official said the claims were “shocking” and had met with organisations who already raised concerns.
“(We are) committed to working with them to gain a better understanding of this issue,” the spokesperson said.