of Foreign National Offenders
27 October 2014
The National Audit Office (NAO) has raised concerns over the Home Office’s management of foreign national offenders (FNOs).
In 2006 it was revealed that 1,013 FNOs had been released without being considered for deportation. Following this discovery and the ensuing criticism, staffing levels within this department of the Home Office were increased tenfold to deal with FNO cases. This led to a sudden surge of numbers of FNOs being deported from the UK, seeing figures rising from 2,856 in 2006/7 to 5,613 in 2008/9.
However the recent report ‘Managing and removing foreign national offenders’ by the NAO has shown that progress has been slow, with the number of FNOs being removed from the UK falling over the last year.
The report focusses on data collected between 2006 and 2014 and reveals that there has been:
- A 4% increase in the number of FNOs in prision
- A decline in removal numbers by 9.2%
- A reduction in the time taken to deport FNOs from 369 days to 319 days
- A 6% increase since 2010 in the number of FNOs who have absconded
In addition, an estimated 37% of FNOs left as part of the early removal scheme that returns offenders to their home country before they would otherwise be released from prison. The scheme has saved the department around £27.5m as well as reduced the number of days spent in prison by 146.
Despite unearthing some positive results, the report suggests there has been little change in the management and removal of FNOs since 2006. This is despite the implementation of a cross-government 2013 action plan, which aimed to increase removals by 1,000 over three years and reduce the number of FNOs in the UK over the same period.
The NAO has therefore recommended that this Home Office Department makes better use of intelligence databases and its warning index (border information system) to prevent potential FNOs entering the country and to use programmes such as the early removal scheme more readily. This is a scheme which is suffering from a poor use of IT, a lack of integration between immigration and prison staff, and slow interaction with FNOs when they first enter prison. The NAO has also suggested that the department speeds up the removal process, as there is often a delay in starting cases due to an over-reliance on form-filling and poor administration.
It is also hoped the Immigration Act 2014 will aid the removal process, as the legislation will reduce the number of rights of appeal open to FNOs from 17 to four.