AN SNP MP has described as “jaw-dropping” revelations that the UK Government is charging British women forced into marriages abroad to pay hundreds of pounds for their rescue.

An investigation by The Times revealed that victims have had to either pay for plane tickets, basic food and shelter themselves or, if they are over 18, take out emergency loans with the Foreign Office.

The SNP called for urgent action, with MP Alison Thewlis saying: “This is a jaw-dropping story, with vulnerable young women in unimaginable situations faced with a cruel system of bureaucracy at their time of need. It flies in the face of the Prime Minister’s own commitments to tackle violence against women.

“The UK Government must take urgent action to stop this approach and to investigate why it was introduced at all. And, importantly, the women who have faced these charges should have every penny repaid.

“We must also urgently know whether any women have been left without help if they refused or were unable to sign up for these UK Government loans. The UK Government should never put a price tag on vulnerable.”

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he was investigating the matter after The Times reported that the Foreign Office added a 10% surcharge to emergency loans taken out by victims of forced marriages if the money was not repaid within six months.

Cases include seven women found at a “correctional school” in Somalia who were charged £740 each.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he wanted “to get to the bottom” of the issue, adding: “I have asked officials to give me some proper advice on the whole issue on the basis of seeing this story.

“With any interventions that I have had on these consular matters I have always stressed to embassies and posts abroad that they need to use discretion. Of course we should always behave with compassion and humanity in every situation.”

The Foreign Office, which runs a Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) jointly with the Home Office, said it has an obligation to recover money spent on repatriating victims when public money is involved, such as the cost of a flight back to the UK. The department helped 27 victims of forced marriage return to the UK in 2017 and 55 in 2016, according to figures acquired by The Times under freedom of information laws.

In the past two years, the Foreign Office has lent £7765 to at least eight forced marriage victims who could not pay for their repatriation.

In August, Home Secretary Sajid Javid said forced marriage was “despicable, inhumane (and) uncivilised” and vowed to “do more to combat it and support victims”.