Thousands of foreign offenders are being housed in British jails or even walking the streets despite the government pledging to deport them.
A report by the House of Commons’ Home Affairs Select Committee found that there are now more than 13,000 foreign criminals in the UK, with nearly 6,000 free to walk the streets having served their sentences while they await deportation.
The Times reports that more than 1,700 have been out of prison for more than five years yet have still not been removed from the country.
Thousands are from countries within the European Union (EU), even though Britain has a deal allowing them to be sent home to serve their sentences.
The report estimates that the cost of holding foreign prisoners in the UK is £350 million a year.
“The clear inefficiencies demonstrated by this process will lead the public to question the point the UK remaining a member of the EU,” the report says.
Labour MP Keith Vaz, who chairs the committee that wrote the report, said: “There are still over 13,000 foreign national offenders in the country, who could fill towns the size of Louth in Lincolnshire, Beccles in Suffolk or Berwick-upon-Tweed in Northumberland, and almost 6,000 of these are living within communities.
“The public would expect our membership of the European Union to make it easier to deport European offenders, but this is clearly not the case, and we continue to keep thousands of these criminals at great and unnecessary expense.
“These failures are undermining confidence in the UK’s immigration system and in the UK’s EU membership.”
The number of EU offenders deported fell from 102 in 2007 to just 44 last year, including 14 who were repatriated to Romania, 12 to Lithuania and six to Portugal.
However, Poland, which has an exemption, had the largest number of nationals in UK jails, with 983 Poles currently imprisoned at the taxpayer’s expense.
In March, the head of London’s Metropolitan Police revealed that nearly one in three people arrested in the UK capital were not British, with over half of them coming from the EU.
Speaking to the London Assembly, Sir Bernard said: “The challenges that poses… is that we need to have the intelligence on them when they are detained. We need their criminal conviction history, we need the forensics information — and all of those are challenging if we have to release 90-odd per cent of our suspects within 24 hours.”