» Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Foreign Prisoners

The PMOS set out the overall context.

Firstly, everyone should be clear that this was about whether people should be considered for deportation and not whether they should serve their sentence. They had served their sentence. It was whether they should be considered for deportation. Secondly, 3000 prisoners had been deported in the last 2 years. So people should avoid the idea that nobody had been deported. It was right however that 1023 cases had not been considered as they should have been and nobody was pretending that this was anything other than wrong. However, the reason this came to light was because of a change of management in this particular part of the Home Office in January 2005. The new management then began to uncover this problem. It was in part because of this that the NAO had produced their report. Ministers then became aware of the problem in summer/autumn of last year and obviously insisted that it be remedied. Partly as a result of the new management an extra £2.7m had been allocated to the particular unit in the immigration service. The team was also being doubled. So this demonstrated recognition of the seriousness in which this issue was being taken and also the size of the problem that needed to be addressed.

The PMOS explained that his understanding of the 288 was that you could not turn a system around overnight and this was why ministers had only discovered in February that this had continued up until then. As of the 1st April there was no case not being considered. The other point to make was that of the 1023 cases it was true that they were not considered before they had left prison however it was equally true that it was not the end of the matter. Of the 1023 over 300 had been considered since in some way. Of the 288 over 70 cases had now been considered in some way, 35 of that 70 were being pursued and of those 35 cases 14 had already been deported. Of the 288 because they were released recently the prospects were that there was much better information of their whereabouts. In terms of the 1023 the 80 most serious cases were being prioritised and every effort was being made to track those people down by the end of the month.

Asked why the Home Secretary was not culpable following the release overnight of the figure of 288 people released and not deported and why had this not been made a top priority following the Evening Standard revelation that the Home Office had known about this 18 months ago, the PMOS said that the extra £2.7m and doubling of staff demonstrated that this was being made a priority. However, the reality was it took time to turn around a system. Therefore this was why whenever ministers found out this was the case Charles Clarke had made his statement yesterday and why since the 1st April it was the case that all cases were being considered. Put that the most dangerous cases should be processed first, the PMOS stressed that ministers had not been aware that this was continuing until February/March and this was now in fact what was happening. His understanding was that minister’s believed that it had been comprehensive and as such they did not know it was not until February/March of this year.

Asked when Charles Clarke had offered to resign, the PMOS said it had been in a meeting yesterday afternoon that had classically been at the same time he had been briefing the lobby and answering The Daily Mail’s question that nobody had offered to resign. The Prime Minister had agreed with the Home Secretary that the best thing was for him to sort it out since he had already got the process underway.

Asked why the system could not be turned round easily, the PMOS said that the whole key to this was that the system to identify which foreign prisoners needed to be deported had broken down. Therefore it was this precise problem that existed. Therefore you had to identify the people first and foremost. The problem existed between a breakdown in communication between the Immigration and Nationality Directorate and the Prison Service.

Asked whether following the Home Secretary-Prime Minister meeting before Christmas if this was when the search began or the structural change started, the PMOS said that his understanding was that the discussion in December had been about the general issue of an increase in the number of foreign prisoners in UK prisons. That increase was due to, partly that the overall number of prisoners in the UK both domestic and foreign had gone up, but also partly because of action being taken by the police and the Home Office to target drug traffickers who by their very nature tended to be foreign.

Asked what the specific systemic failure was, the PMOS said that the reality was that the system had been in place for decades. The caseloads had been going up. Ministers had no reason to believe that the process was not being carried out, as it should have been, in other words consideration given to each case. The reality was that because the number of cases was going up and that pressure on caseloads meant people were falling between the cracks. This was why the answer was to put in the extra £2.7m and double the staff.

Asked about the 30 September 2004 memo, the PMOS said people should speak to the Home Office for detailed answers. Asked when the extra resources went and when the searches began, the PMOS said that the decision to put in the resources happened sometime over the summer of last year. Though you could not instantly translate a decision to put in those resources into action. Where cases had not been considered did not mean that IND had given up on those cases. They had pursued 355 so far. The momentum of that had obviously increased since ministers became aware of the problem.

In response to the question of why Charles Clarke had not resigned in light of the suggestion by Michael Howard that the government did not have an ounce of honour left when it came to resignations, the PMOS said there was a simple divide here, which was whether this mistake had been the result of an operational or policy decision. The answer was that it was the result of an operational decision. When ministers became aware of it they gave a very clear indications that they wanted this problem resolved. They were not aware that there were still cases not being considered. Now that ministers and senior officials were fully aware of this the situation now was all cases were being considered.

Asked how it was that we did not know where the rapists and murderers were when they must be on offender registers, the PMOS said that these people may not have been considered for deportation but the normal rules about licensing had still applied. In terms of the information you had that for as long as people were on licence, but some of these cases went back longer than that.

Asked if there was confidence that the Home Secretary could deliver and administer ID cards, the PMOS said that in terms of pushing through the necessary steps to resolve this matter, the PMOS had announced what those steps were yesterday. Those steps recognised the problems that had arisen, why they had arisen and made sure ministers were now going to meet to make sure these cracks did not appear in the future. So in terms of the determination to resolve this particular problem it was not in doubt. Equally the determination to identify what legislation was necessary to tackle international terrorism Charles Clarke had taken on very difficult issues and got them through parliament. Making sure the administrative machine responded to due felt concerns was precisely what the measures announced by Charles Clarke were to address.

Asked how long the extra 100 staff would take to put in place, the PMOS said that his feel was that we were already someway down that road but people should check that with the Home Office. From the 1st April every case was being considered. Put that there was a slight difference between No10 and the Home Secretary in where systemic failure lay, the PMOS said that he had not been casting aspersions on one side of the department or the other. The point was that the information one part had had not been passed to the other lot. It was a simple fact that for whatever reason there was a communications breakdown.

Put that the policy review underway suggested that there was a policy failure since the courts had recommended deportation and this had not happened, the PMOS said that the courts said they should be considered for deportation. Therefore that meant considered according to criteria. What you had to reflect on was whether the criteria were right or wrong. That was a legitimate thing to do and when we had tried to tighten the criteria we had faced considerable opposition within parliament. This did not mean however that you did not continue to ask yourself that perfectly legitimate question.

Asked if those who had been tracked down so far had committed any further offences, the PMOS said that he could not answer that at this stage. Asked why the Home Secretary had referred to the most recent cases as very few, the PMOS said that the Home Secretary had addressed that himself this morning. Asked when the Prime Minister had found out, the PMOS said it had been last week.

Asked to rule out that this announcement had been because Sir John Gieve had to appear before the Public Accounts Committee today, the PMOS said that in terms of setting the record straight with the PAC the department quite rightly wanted to set it straight as soon as possible.

Briefing took place at 6:00 | Search for related news


  1. Good day, my name is Thomas Tshilowa from South Africa.

    I am busy with the research on foreign nationals in prisons. I would like you to help me with any information in this regard i.e the situation in your country. The statistics of foreign prisoners in your prisons. How are they handled in your prisons.

    I am looking forward to hearing from you. It is worth repeating to state my email address: tshilt@highveldmail.co.za

    Thank you in advance

    Tshilowa T

    Comment by Thomas — 10 May 2006 on 2:27 pm | Link
  2. Good day, my name is Thomas Tshilowa from South Africa.

    I am busy with the research on foreign nationals in prisons. I would like you to help me with any information in this regard i.e the situation in your country. The statistics of foreign prisoners in your prisons. How are they handled in your prisons.

    I am looking forward to hearing from you. It is worth repeating to state my email address: tshilt@highveldmail.co.za

    Thank you in advance

    Tshilowa T

    Comment by Thomas — 10 May 2006 on 2:27 pm | Link
  3. Hi Tom is Tate mulaudzi the one u now from sereni

    Comment by Tate mulaudzi — 3 Sep 2007 on 11:01 am | Link

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