Progress on foreign offender management too slow, says NAO

22 Oct 14
The Home Office has made slower progress than expected deporting foreign national offenders despite increased resources, the National Audit Office has found.

By Marino Donati | 22 October 2014

The Home Office has made slower progress than expected deporting foreign national offenders despite increased resources, the National Audit Office has found.

A report published by auditors today found the number of foreign offenders in prison and the number returned to their homes countries from the UK, taken together, has remained broadly the same since 2006.

This was despite increased resources and increased powers, the NAO said.

Over that period, the number of foreign nationals in prison in the UK increased by 4%, from 10,231 to 10,649.

Although the number of foreign national offenders removed from the UK increased surged from 2,856 in 2006/07 to 5,613 in 2008/09, numbers have declined to 5,097 in 2013/14, the Managing and removing foreign national offenders report stated. In total the NAO estimated that public bodies spent £850m on managing and removing foreign national offenders in 2013/14 – around £70,000 for each offender.

The report concluded the government had done relatively little before December 2012 to tackle the problem of potential foreign national offenders entering the UK. Although an action plan in 2013 has focused efforts on this aspect of prevention, it still lacked a structured and informed approach.

Although the department was looking at better use of intelligence databases and has changed its immigration rules, progress in modernising its border information system to reflect this has been slow.

As much as £70m could be saved each year if early identification opportunities were acted upon, auditors concluded. At least one-third of 1,453 removal failures analysed could be have been avoided by better co-ordination of the bodies and involved and fewer administrative errors.

Auditor general Amyas Morse acknowledged that it was not easy to manage and deport foreign national offenders in the UK.

‘However, too little progress has been made, despite the increased resources and effort devoted to this problem,’ he said.

‘The government’s focus on preventative measures and early action is promising, but it has only just started to exploit these options. It needs to build on the momentum of its recent action plan, in particular taking advantage of relatively inexpensive and straightforward opportunities to make progress.’

Under government policies, all foreign national offenders have been considered for deportation since last April, and the number removed has increased since then.

However, there was considerable scope to speed up the process by removing delays in starting cases and an over-reliance on form-filling, the report says.

The NAO estimated 37% of offenders who left as part of an Early Removal Scheme in 2013/14 saved £27.5m by reducing the average number of days spent in prison.

Responding to the report, immigration and security minister James Brokenshire said that the countless appeals and re-appeals lodged by criminals attempting to block deportation were being addressed by the coalition’s Immigration Act.

‘New powers came into force this week to cut the number of grounds on which criminals can appeal their deportation and to end the appeals conveyor belt in the courts,’ he said.

‘They will build on the measures we introduced in the summer which are already speeding up the deportation process.

‘Alongside tougher crime fighting measures, improved protection at the border and greater collaboration between police and immigration enforcement officers, the Immigration Act will help us deliver an immigration system that is fair to the people of this country and legitimate immigrants and tough on those who flout the rules.’


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