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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 November 2018

British immigration lawyer exposed as 'forced marriage fixer'

Asma Javed was filmed giving advice on how to force girls as young as 15 into marriage

A solicitor in Bradford has been exposed as a forced marriage fixer
A solicitor in Bradford has been exposed as a forced marriage fixer

An immigration solicitor from the British city of Bradford has been exposed as a forced marriage fixer, having been caught telling an undercover reporter that there was “no harm” in marrying off girls as young as 15.

Asama Javed, a partner at Reiss Solicitors in the northern English city, was filmed by The Times giving the journalist, who was posing as a Pakistani father of two teenage daughters, advice on how to arrange a forced marriage for his youngest daughter without alerting the attention of authorities.

“If she is mentally or physically ready and she is 15 or 16 years old, then there is no harm in it," the mother-of-four said, in footage shown on the publication’s website.

Forced marriage is illegal in Britain and the minimum age of marriage in England and Wales is 18, although 16 and 17-year-olds can marry if they have parental consent.

Mrs Javed is a well-known figure in Bradford’s thriving Asian community and alongside her job as a solicitor she serves as a school governor and sits on Bradford council’s fostering panel.

The 44-year-old has also been a Labour Party councillor in Bradford, quitting her position two years ago to run for parliament for the far-left Respect Party.

Respect’s controversial leader George Galloway, an outspoken supporter of Iran, described Mrs Javed’s conversion away from Labour as a major coup, adding that she had “prestige and intellectual firepower”.

But Mrs Javed was also caught giving advice to the undercover reporter on how to get a visa for his 18-year-old daughter’s husband to come to the UK against her wishes.

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The reporter said he wanted his daughter, who had been sent to Pakistan for a forced marriage, to return to the UK with her husband as she was now pregnant.

Mrs Javed told him not to apply for a spousal visa for his son-in-law, a Pakistani citizen, because this would need his daughter’s permission.

She warned that if he knew his daughter was “not happy and would not agree to that”, a spousal visa application could risk the forced marriage being detected by Home Office officials and criminal charges could be enforced.

Instead, Mrs Javed told the reporter to wait until the baby was born and then his son-in-law could apply for entry as the baby’s father without his daughter’s knowledge or permission. She added that in the meantime he should “bribe” and “spoil” his daughter to get her on side.

The UK’s Home Office received 175 inquiries about victims trying to block spousal visas in 2017, according to figures from a freedom of information request obtained by The Times. Around half of the inquiries became full cases, which included requests from victims as well as third parties alerting officials to suspected forced marriages.

In response to the report, West Yorkshire Police said it would review the information to see if a crime had been committed.

The National contacted Mrs Javed’s office for comment and is still awaiting a reply.