The Girl whose Father Sold her Into Marriage to Settle a Gambling Debt

Gambling is an evil habit.

A gambler loses control of his senses and continues to bet until he loses all his money.

But even then he doesn’t learn his lesson; he carries on betting.

But when he runs out of money, what does he do to pay his debts?

Sometimes the addiction is so great that a man is willing to sell off the most valuable possession he has.

His car.

His house.

His very own daughter.

This is what happened to 14 year old Naila, a young girl living in Pakistan.

Desperate to pay off a gambling debt, her father agreed to marry her off to the man he owed money to.

Naila’s proposed husband was over 30 years older than her and already married.

Horrified by the thought of losing her only daughter in this way, Naila’s courageous mother Mumtaz knew she had to flee.

Having tolerated domestic violence at the hands of her abusive husband and in-laws for many years, this was the final straw for Mumtaz.

Pakistan is not the kind of place where a woman can complain to the police about domestic violence and expect them to help her.

It is also an extremely difficult place for a single mother to live such is the level of discrimination against women there.

It was not an easy decision for Mumtaz but she knew that she had to do something to protect her children.

She would have to leave Pakistan and take them to a foreign land with a completely different language and culture to that which they were used to.

Taking Naila and her three other sons, Mumtaz fled the family home to Islamabad where she had a friend studying in university.

From there she managed to get to the UK whereupon she claimed asylum.

Sadly the Home Office dismissed her claim refusing to believe her story and told her she needed to go back.

When the case came before an immigration tribunal on appeal, the Home Office Presenting Officer opened her submissions by saying:

This case involves a gambling debt. The Appellants are all Muslims. Gambling is prohibited in Islam. Therefore you should find the Appellants not to be credible.”

I countered that this was as valid as saying that since lying was prohibited in Islam, the Appellants must clearly be telling the truth.

Lacking an ounce of sympathy, the Presenting Officer subjected Naila and her mother to intense cross-examination but they remained firm.

Thankfully, the judge saw through the artificial web of lies concocted by the Home Office and allowed the appeal.

The family was granted asylum and leave to remain for five years.

Since arriving in the UK, Mumtaz has struggled greatly trying to adjust to her new environment.

She was suddenly the primary carer and breadwinner for her four children, working for the first time in her life.

She had to help her children adjust to a new culture and country, and try to support them in understanding why their father was no longer with them.

Sadly, she had to learn to deal with crooks, scamsters and unethical landlords who sought to exploit her vulnerability.

She has emerged however a much stronger person.

Earlier this year, we submitted applications for the whole family to be granted indefinite leave to remain which were granted last week.

This means that Naila and her family can now permanently remain in the UK.

After one year, they will be eligible to naturalise as British citizens.

When I first met Naila almost seven years ago, she was a very timid, scared and withdrawn child.

That young teen has now grown into a strong and confident young woman who is currently studying social sciences at college.

Her dream is to become a social worker to aid and support vulnerable women.

Had her mother not had the immense strength and courage to risk everything to protect her children, Naila’s life is likely to have turned out tragically different.,  Diary of an Immigration Lawyer, is a blog run by Fahad Ansari, the director and principal solicitor of Riverway Law, a niche UK immigration and nationality law practice based in London.  If you would like any advice or assistance in relation to your immigration matter, please do not hesitate to email me at or submit your details here.

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