UK Border Agency criticised over convict deportations
More than 5,000 foreign criminals awaiting deportation remain in the UK, an official report has said.
The number who are not deported or cannot be deported at the end of their sentence is increasing, the independent inspector of the UK Border Agency said.
John Vine said the majority of successful appeals against deportation were made on human rights grounds.
The Home Office said it was deporting foreign criminals more quickly and changing immigration rules.
Mr Vine's report found "significant disparity" between the UK Border Agency (UKBA) and the courts' interpretation of whether a foreign prisoner should be able to remain in the UK on human rights grounds.
A total of 425 cases had been overturned, "the overwhelming majority on human rights grounds", compared with just 151 cases in which the offenders had been granted permission to stay in the first instance, it found.
'Cycle of appeals'
Mr Vine said action had to be taken to reduce the number of deportation decisions overturned because they fell foul of the Human Rights Act.
"More must be done to actively manage these cases - they represent a growing cost to the taxpayer and cannot be ignored."
Failure to act, Mr Vine said, would result in a continuing "cycle of appeals, at considerable cost to the taxpayer even though the outcome will eventually be that the foreign national prisoner is entitled to remain in the UK".
He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the border agency needed to increase its casework with individual prisoners and start some proceedings earlier.
"Some of the circumstances which allow people to resist deportation can be predicted," Mr Vine said. "The border agency needs to concentrate on those cases and I didn't find find during the inspection that they were prioritising those cases in a systematic way."
More than 1,600 foreign national prisoners remained in detention, having completed their prison sentence, while 12 were missing after being released directly from court or referred incorrectly, inspectors found.
Meanwhile, some 3,775 former foreign national prisoners who the Agency had decided to deport had been released from custody and were living in the community.
Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights - the right to family life and a private life - was the most common reason for foreign national offenders not being deported.
Mr Vine told Today the UKBA needed to "really get a grip of this figure because it's a growing figure and it's not going away".
The report recommended that the UKBA:
- Reduce the number of decisions to deport that are overturned on appeal
- Ensure that foreign national prisoners are provided with the reasons why they are being deported at the time the decision is made
- Develop clear time scales for obtaining travel documentation in individual cases to ensure that deportation action can be taken more quickly where appropriate
- Actively manage all cases where foreign national prisoners have yet to be deported, and consider regularly whether deportation can be enforced or a person is entitled to remain in the UK
- Ensure that each individual decision to detain or release a foreign national prisoner at the end of their sentence takes full account of the risk of reoffending
- Change the level of authorisation required to release foreign national prisoners at the end of their sentence
- Analyse whether the frequency and nature of contact between case owners and foreign national prisoners can improve the quality and timeliness of decisions
- Ensure that files contain data relevant only to the subject of that file; and ensure the timely destruction of data in the case of acquittals
Mr Vine assessed the UKBA between February and May 2011 for the report.
Human rights claims
At the Conservative Party conference, Home Secretary Theresa May attacked what she said were excessive uses of Article 8, saying it had been used to prevent the removal of foreign national prisoners and illegal immigrants.
Immigration Minister Damian Green said the government was removing foreign criminals "quicker then ever".
He added: "For too long Article 8 has been used to place the family rights of foreign criminals above the rights of the British public, which is why we will change the immigration rules to ensure a better balance."
The report found foreign prisoners were also being held for longer, up to 190 days in January 2011 from 143 days in February 2010.
One in four who were held after the end of their jail term had been detained for longer than a year.
Mr Vine said there was "genuine fear and reluctance to release, given the potential implications of a foreign national prisoner committing a further offence, but no evidence that a detailed assessment of the risk of reoffending had taken place in each case".
The figures also showed that between 2007 and 2010, 20,360 foreign national prisoners were deported from the UK - 5,235 last year alone.