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You can't deport 3,000 criminals, EU tells Britain

UK Daily Mail | May 28, 2007 
JAMES SLACK

Up to 3,000 foreign criminals will be released from prison on to Britain's streets without any attempt to deport them, Government papers have revealed.

A note sent to probation staff says as few as 250 convicts from European countries will face even preliminary deportation proceedings every year.

It pins the blame on an EU directive which rules that committing a serious crime is no longer sufficient grounds for removal.

Neither is the Government's desire to deter other foreign nationals from committing a crime in this country.

As a result, the vast bulk of the estimated 3,300 European criminals released from British jails each year - including burglars, thieves and muggers - will simply walk free.

The revelation undermines the promise made by Tony Blair to tackle the problem in the wake of the foreign prisoner scandal last year.

He said: "It is now time that anybody who is convicted of an imprisonable offence and who is a foreign national is deported."

The Conservatives said that the revelation was a further embarrassment for Home Secretary John Reid.

Shadow Home Secretary David Davis said: "Yet again we see that the public will be put at risk as a direct result of John Reid's failure.

"He spun he had a deal to remove these offenders but the rhetoric has not matched the action. John Reid was brought in to deal with the foreign prisoner crisis yet one year on as he quits office we see he has totally failed."

Overseas criminals convicted of crimes warranting a jail sentence of a year or more can normally be kicked out of Britain when they are released from prison - on the grounds that their presence is "not conducive to the public good".

But Probation Circular 11/2007, sent out this week and seen by the Daily Mail, said an EU directive has made the criteria far more stringent for citizens of the European Economic Area.

The Home Office can only remove EEA nationals who are highly likely to re-offend. They must also pose a "present, genuine and sufficiently serious threat" to society.

The new rules apply to citizens of countries such as Germany, Poland, Romania, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. They also cover those born in countries such as Africa or the Middle East who have been given passports by other EU countries.

The change means all except the most serious offenders - such as killers and rapists - will not face even an attempt at deportation by the Home Office's Criminal Casework Directorate.

The note to probation staff revealed that just "approximately 250-300" offenders will face even an attempt at removal - which could of course be unsuccessful.

The latest revelation shows how, one year on, the Government is unable to escape the continuing repercussions of the foreign prisoner scandal.

Lin Homer, head of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate, recently told MPs that her staff had tracked down and deported only 163 of the 1,013 foreign offenders who were mistakenly freed without being considered for deportation.

Another 512 were still to be removed from the UK, and the remainder are likely to be allowed to stay.

It emerged that Ministers are floundering on a second promise relating to foreign convicts - to send home foreign nationals imprisoned in Britain.

Jails are at bursting point - with a record 80,812 inmates on Friday - so Labour is desperately trying to secure agreements to send 11,000 convicts back home to serve their sentences.

But it is expected to take years for any significant number to be removed.

Justice Minister Gerry Sutcliffe has admitted there is no chance of an agreement with other EU countries until 2009.

Agreements with countries outside Europe are understood to be even further off.

 

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