The multi-million pound 'bribe' to send foreign criminals home
The taxpayer is having to fund millions of pounds a year to “bribe” foreign murderers, rapists and other prisoners to go home after a 60 per cent jump in cases.
By Tom Whitehead, Home Affairs Editor
Published: 6:30AM GMT 23 Nov 2009
One in four of the foreign criminals who were deported last year only went home after being offered a voluntary return package worth up to 5,000.
It means ministers spent 3.4 million of public money encouraging offenders who have no right to be in Britain to leave.
It emerged earlier this week that one of those was a Malaysian migrant who killed a 17-month-old baby.
Some foreign prisoners can already have up to nine months slashed from their sentence if they are willing to go home.
The Facilitated Returns Scheme was launched in October 2006 and encourages overseas offenders to return to their home country once they have passed the point they would be released if British.
It is aimed at preventing lengthy and expensive legal battles against deportation and can see inmates given resettlement packages worth up to 5,000, including up to 500 in cash and the rest “in kind” support.
In 2008, some 1,350 foreign criminals took advantage of the programme, with an average value per package of 2,500, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.
That means the taxpayer faced a bill of 3.4 million last year to send home inmates who had no right to remain in the country in any event.
It represented a quarter of the 5,400 foreign criminals that the Home Office boasted it had removed from the UK during the year.
It was also a 60 per cent increase on the 850 criminals who took up the offer in 2007.
It leaves a hollow ring to Gordon Brown's message to foreign criminals last year when the Prime Minister said: “If you commit a crime you will be deported. You play by the rules or you face the consequences.”
Under a separate early removal scheme, foreign prisoners can be freed up to 270 days in advance of their release date so long as they are willing to return home.
Susie Squire, of the TaxPayers Alliance said: Its ludicrous that taxpayers are paying millions to bribe foreign criminals to return back to their home countries. If they have been ruled to be wrongfully in our country, they should be deported immediately, with no additional financial incentives.
“These cash handouts reflect skewed priorities on the part of the Government when it comes to dealing with our immigration problem.
Damian Green, the shadow immigration minister, said: “These figures make clear that the Government has completely abandoned any attempt at removing foreign criminals at the end of their sentence.
“Instead they are paying them to leave Britain. What happened to Gordon Browns pledge that he would introduce automatic deportation of serious foreign criminals?
There are just under 12,000 foreign prisoners in jails in England and Wales, making up one in seven of the population behind bars.
One of those to have taken up the returns package is Malaysian Agnes Wong, 29, who was jailed for five years in 2008 for the manslaughter of toddler Hugo Wang she was supposed to be child-minding.
She was released in July this year, having served the minimum jail term of two-and-half years, including her time spent on remand, and put on a plane home with returns package worth 4,500.
Phil Woolas, the Border and Immigration Minister, said: “We strongly believe foreign lawbreakers should be sent home at the earliest opportunity. Last year we removed a record 5,400 foreign national prisoners.
“Our Facilitated Returns Scheme saves the taxpayer money because foreign criminals are removed direct from jail or immigration detention, often before their sentence ends. This means foreign lawbreakers cannot drag out the removal process for months with frivolous appeals which clog up the legal system.
Every day that we can get these individuals out of the country early saves taxpayers over 100 a night in detention costs.
The Daily Telegraph told last week how murderers, rapists and other prisoners are being allowed up to 100 days ''holiday'' away from their cells to ease pressure on overcrowded jails.
Some inmates can even spend up to a month at a time doing community service outside their prisons.
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