Up to 400 criminals involved in a foreign prisoner scandal, including some of the worst offenders, have been told they can stay in Britain, the Home Office has disclosed.
By Tom Whitehead, Home Affairs Editor
Last Updated: 5:36PM GMT 20 Nov 2008
Less than a third of the 1,013 convicts have been deported two and half years after the scandal broke and subsequently cost Charles Clarke his job as Home Secretary.
And many more could end up staying because 90 are still missing, 31 are in jail again and 160 are still going through the process.
The figures emerged as immigration minister Phil Woolas admitted too many migrant workers have been let in under previous Government policies.
He also launched another attack on asylum lawyers as he revealed the case of a Nigerian who had his claim rejected four times and was removed, only to have to be brought back because his solicitor lodged a judicial review.
Moves to ban individuals taking out multiple judicial reviews will be contained in the forthcoming Queen's speech, he said.
Dominic Grieve, the Shadow Home Secretary, said: “It is outrageous that over two and a half years after the former home secretary lost his job over this fiasco just a third of these offenders have been deported and 90 have not even been found.
“Not only does this put the public at risk, it shows the government are patently incapable of getting a grip on this longstanding problem.”
It emerged in spring 2006 that more than 1,000 foreign prisoners had been wrongly released without first being considered for deportation, including murderers and rapists.
But despite the ongoing anger over the issue, Lin Homer, chief executive of the UK Border Agency, told MPs that only 333 have so far been removed from the country.
Another 399 have been told they can stay in the UK, including some in the most serious category of crimes, which includes murder, rape and armed robbery.
Ms Homer would not detail what offences they had committed but admitted some will stay because they have been in the country for so long.
Ms Homer said only 15 more of the criminals still missing have been tracked down since her last update meaning 90 are still at large.
“Although we have reached the point where the change in numbers is small, we are still making progress,” she told the Commons Home Affairs Committee.
“We are not in any sense giving up.”
She was appearing alongside Mr Woolas who repeated his attack on asylum lawyers, who this week he accused of “playing the system”.
Asked about it, he said: “If you look at the number of appeals and the number of judicial reviews which we believe are being used deliberately to frustrate the system.”
He highlighted the case of a Nigerian who applied for asylum, was turned down, lost an appeal, put in a second claim which was refused, appealed again and lost again.
He was removed but the following day the Home Office was informed his lawyer had submitted a successful application for a judicial review on the day he left the country and the court had requested he be brought back to hear the case – all at the taxpayers' expense.
Mr Woolas also announced that anyone who is jailed while waiting to become a British citizen will be barred from settlement.
The Government has anounced plans for a “probationary citizen” scheme where candidates eligible for naturalisation will have to serve a year “on probation” after the usual five-year stay and demonstrate they are contributing to the country.
Most convicted criminals are already barred and Mr Woolas said anyone who is jailed while a probationary citizen will now also be barred.
The minister was asked if the Government had let too many migrants come to the UK.
He said the Government had already suspended the route for unskilled workers from outside the EU and added: “The implication of that is that in the past it was not as controlled.”