The government’s Justice and International Development departments are considering pooling their resources in an attempt to deport more foreign criminals from Britain than ever before.
Justice Secretary Liz Truss and International Development Secretary Priti Patel are said to have discussed “embryonic” plans to use Britain’s foreign aid budget as clout to persuade other nations to clean up their own prison systems and allow Britain to repatriate more of their citizens, according to a report in the Sunday Telegraph.
There are currently some 10,000 foreign criminals housing within the British prison system, costing the UK taxpayer £40,000 a year each, figures in a recent House of Commons briefing showed. Poland is the most represented country, being home to about one in ten foreign prisoners, followed by Ireland, Romania, Jamaica and Albania.
A further 6,000 offenders are living in British communities following release.
A government source told the Sunday Telegraph: “We are looking at how we can best ensure that from the money we spend on international aid, we get every other benefit that should flow with it.
“One of the things that the Department for International Development does get is very good access to government ministers and the machine of government in foreign countries.
“Quite often we are doing things that foreign governments care about, such as helping people, or at the very least they want us to do something.
“They therefore want to see us and there is an opportunity to use that to press the point [on foreign criminals] and try to make sure when we spend the money we get the most for it.”
Although plans are still in the very early stages, ministers are said to be exploring how the foreign aid budget can be best used to encourage an increased rate of deportation, with opinions split over whether to use the budget as a carrot or a stick.
One insider wants to revisit the idea of paying foreign countries to jail their own citizens, as it would cost about half as much as housing them in British prisons. “If we paid for them to have their prisoners, we would save around £130 million a year. It is worth exploring again,” the source said.
Others have suggested tying trade deals to agreements on prisoner deportations, or to withhold aid from countries until they comply.
The issue of foreign prisoners and foreign reoffenders featured heavily in the run-up to the referendum on British membership of the European Union, as Britain is currently hampered in its ability to deport foreign criminals by EU laws, including human rights legislation.
In 2011 Theresa May, in her former role as Home Secretary, famously slammed the Human Rights Act for making it too easy for foreign criminals to remain in the UK even after conviction during her party conference speech.
“We all know the stories about the Human Rights Act,” she told Conservative Party delegates.
“The violent drug dealer who cannot be sent home because his daughter – for whom he pays no maintenance – lives here. The robber who cannot be removed because he has a girlfriend. The illegal immigrant who cannot be deported because – and I am not making this up – he had a pet cat.”