Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Asian wives lured abroad and dumped by husbands

John Elliott:

DOZENS of Asian women have claimed their husbands have tried to “dispose of” them by duping them into travelling from Britain to the subcontinent and then abandoning them.

Lawyers and charities have taken up cases in which women claim to have been tricked into giving up their passports and tickets, making it harder for them to re-enter Britain and re-join their British-born children.

Experts say unscrupulous British Asian men are using the device to avoid costly divorces and deny their wives access to the broader rights they can enjoy in Britain compared with India, Pakistan or Bangladesh.

Anne-Marie Hutchinson, a lawyer at the London family law firm Dawson Cornwell, said she had encountered 20 such cases in the past 18 months involving wives born in India or Pakistan but married to British Asians. In these cases the wives had turned to British courts to try to gain custody of their children.

Hutchinson said the phenomenon was comparable to cases in which husbands fled abroad taking the children with them.

“You could say it’s abduction by a different means: you take her away rather than the kids. It’s a breach of human rights, forcibly separating a mother from her children.”

In May the 22-year-old Indian-born wife of a Leeds-born Asian man told the High Court her husband’s parents had lured her to India and abandoned her without a passport in order to cut her off from her baby daughter, who remained in Britain with her husband.

The man’s parents had told the wife, who cannot be named for legal reasons, that her father was ill, but when she reached India she found him well and surprised by her visit.

The wife’s parents-in-law, after dropping her off with her relatives, flew back to Britain without telling her, leaving her with no passport, which they had always kept in their possession. The husband’s family claimed the wife had simply deserted her husband and child.

At a subsequent hearing, however, Mr Justice Kirkwood said: “I am satisfied . . . that the father’s family conspired and contrived to remove the mother from their family to India and to abandon her there and to keep her baby daughter for themselves. They have presented a thoroughly dishonest case to this court.”

Last year a Pakistani-born woman married to an Asian man from Blackburn told a court she was encouraged to make a trip to Pakistan with her baby by her husband’s family. There she was dumped at her parents’ village while her mother-in-law flew back to Britain with the baby.

In her judgment Mrs Justice Black called the episode “a deliberate ploy on the part of the paternal family to strand her (the wife) in Pakistan”. A court has since awarded her custody of her daughter.

Meena Patel, a worker at the charity Southall Black Sisters, said one reason cases were now coming to light was that increased use of e-mails in Pakistan had made it easier for abandoned wives to make contact with charities and with lawyers.

“More women are asking for help than used to,” she said. “Technology has enabled them to access help in this country as they often have fewer rights abroad.”

In many cases the wives are able to return to Britain, but often after long delays. Last week Ghazala Mahboob, 30, who was born in Pakistan, told how the family of her husband, Farooq Khan from Blackburn, had allegedly dumped her in her homeland.

Mahboob claimed her mother- in-law told her in 2003 that her mother had died in Pakistan. Mahboob claimed that when she arrived in Pakistan she found her mother perfectly well, but her father-in-law kept her passport and locked her indoors.

She was later tracked down by her relatives, by which time her passport and visa had expired.

Mahboob was finally able to return to Britain a year ago but said she was unable to find her two children. They are thought to be with her husband who cannot be located.

Last week Farooq Khan’s brother Sharook denied Mahboob’s allegations and blamed her for the breakdown of the marriage.

“She’s trying to make my mum and dad look bad but there are two sides to every story,” he said.

A spokesman for the Foreign Office said cases of “spouse abandonment” in south Asia appeared to be on the increase, with 45 cases in the past year, one of which was a man.

Why on earth did the British allow this scum into their country in the first place?

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