Britain struck a deal with EU countries to send their criminals home. So how many have gone NONESince December 2011 prisoners from within the EU can be forced to serve their sentence in their home countryPrevious government allowed opt outs for Poland and Ireland, the two countries with the most inmates serving time in Britain
Meanwhile 38 prisoners were returned to the UK
23:50 GMT, 25 December 2012
Must change: More foreign prisoners should be sent home to serve their time says Justice Secretary Chris Grayling
Britain was hit by a fresh foreign prisoner fiasco last night after it was revealed that a much- trumpeted EU transfer agreement has spectacularly backfired.
Ministers had pinned their hopes on the deal between member states leading to a dramatic fall in overseas inmates clogging the UK’s jails.
It allows EU prisoners to be forced to serve their sentence at home.
But farcically, the two countries with the most inmates in Britain – Poland and Ireland – were given opt-outs by the previous Labour government.
As a result, not a single prisoner from a fellow EU country has been sent back to their homeland by the UK since the agreement came into force in December 2011.
At the same time, Britain has been sent two inmates by our EU partners – meaning the number behind bars is going up.
To make matters worse, a further 38 British citizens were sent to our packed jails by our EU neighbours under pre-existing voluntary transfer deals.
Only 32 Britons went in the opposite direction, according to figures released by Prisons Minister Jeremy Wright.
At the heart of the fiasco is a decision made by Labour three years ago, to grant Poland an effective opt-out from the new EU arrangement. There are more Poles – 861 – in the UK’s prisons than citizens of any other EU nation.
It has echoes of Labour’s infamous decision not to place any restrictions on Poland when the country joined the Union in 2004. It led to one million travelling here from the former Eastern Bloc country, compared to government estimates of 13,000.
Poland’s exemption from the deal lasts for five years, leaving little prospect of any improvement until 2017 at the earliest.
Ministers in the last government also allowed Ireland an opt-out, formalising a long-standing arrangement between the two countries.
No fair: No EU citizen has been sent from Britain to serve their jail-time in their native country whilst 38 British citizens have been returned to be imprisoned here (file photo)
The news is likely to cast new doubt on how much benefit Britain receives from signing up to EU directives.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling told the Mail: ‘This is an aspect of our prison system that has to change. More foreign prisoners must serve their sentences in their own countries. There are far too many in our prisons.
‘Prisoners are being transferred out of our prisons under various transfer agreements but I am determined to do more and will investigate every possible avenue to reduce their numbers and unburden British taxpayers.’
The Prime Minister had personally put the agreement at the heart of his blueprint for cutting the 11,000 foreign nationals behind bars, which costs taxpayers an estimated 420million a year.
UK prisons contain inmates from 156
different countries. There are 193 member countries in the United
Nations, meaning all bar 37 are represented in the British prison
system. Labour’s strategy was to offer inmates a bribe of thousands of
pounds to go home voluntarily to complete their sentence.
However in recent years the strategy has shifted towards trumpeting the introduction of the EU prisoner transfer agreement. Prisoners do not have to give their consent before they can be sent to a fellow member of the EU.
In reply to a question from Tory MP Therese Coffey, Mr Wright admitted: ‘To date no prisoners have been transferred from England and Wales to other EU member states under the EU prisoner transfer agreement.
‘A small number of requests for transfer to other member states have been made and decisions are awaited.’ He added: ‘It remains government policy that, wherever possible, prisoners should serve their sentences in their own country.
‘All of those prisoners from member states which have implemented the EU prisoner transfer agreement, and who it is considered may be eligible for transfer . . . will be transferred at the earliest possible opportunity.’