A Sunderland woman who says she has faced “torture” at the hands of her family is in a detention centre while a legal bid is launched to halt her deportation.
The 25-year-old, who is originally from Pakistan, sought sanctuary on Wearside three years ago as she fulfilled her dream to study a masters after gaining a degree in her home land.
But while her family claimed they were allowing her to visit the UK to further her education, she says she faced a second attempt by her relations to lead her into a forced marriage after a previous effort back in Pakistan.
The woman told the Echo a Forced Marriage Protection Order was agreed by a county court in 2013 to ensure she was not put at further risk, but she says she is now facing fresh heartache as she and her fiancée, who lives in Sunderland, have been kept apart – possibly for good.
While they have been told the Home Office now believes they are a genuine couple, she has been held in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Detention Centre, near Bedford, for more than a fortnight as the Government presses on with her deportation.
The couple have asked the Echo to keep their identities anonymous, as they fear repercussions from the woman’s family.
She says she was subjected to years of physical and mental abuse in Pakistan at the hands of her parents, then from her relations in the UK, after she declared she did not share their belief in their faith in Islam.
Apostasy is viewed as a crime by some Muslims, who believe it should be punished by death.
A judicial review has been launched by their solicitor in the wake of a second failed attempt for her to seek asylum, while they have urged MP Julie Elliott to raise their case with the Home Office.
The graduate, speaking from the detention centre, said: “I’ve hoped for two years this would come to an end, and this is my last hope because of the judicial review.
“It’s so difficult, they are keeping me captive and it’s a reminder of my past and the torture my family put me through. I renounced Islam and I was abused and feared for my life and I am very scared.
“I am not dependent on the Government here, I have my partner for financial support. I want to get married.
“If I am sent back to Pakistan, I will be abused.”
Her 31-year-old boyfriend said: “It’s absolutely heartbreaking.
“The fact is, we are together, we’re engaged to be married, and if we were just starting to go out with each other, fair enough, but we’ve been together for two and a half years.
“She wants to work, she’s not here for any welfare, and now she’s being kept at the expense of the taxpayer in a detention centre, and she could get a job within weeks.
“They say she could go back and live as an unmarried independent woman in Pakistan, but her family would find her.
“They’ve also said there’s nothing stopping me from moving to Pakistan, but on the Government’s own website, it says there’s a threat of terrorism, harm and violence.
“To be blunt, I’m a white Northerner and she’s seen as committing apostasy in the eyes of some.
“There’s a real threat of murder.”