Rise in foreign ex-offenders living with public putting families at risk


November 06, 2020

The continued failure to remove foreign ex-offenders may be posing an ever-greater risk to the public.

A new Migration Watch UK briefing (MW 484 - Foreign National Offenders) finds that the number of foreign ex-offenders living in the community has more than doubled from 4,000 in 2012 to 9,400 in 2020.

This has been paralleled by a decreasing use of detention and deportation (both of which can help protect the public) - with over 1,000 less foreign national offenders (FNO) returns since 2016

The purpose of the brief is to lay out the various facts, processes and rules surrounding this important topic.

The 2019 Queen's Speech contained legislation to 'maximise removal of foreign national offenders and deter them from returning to the UK'.

However, despite having been criticised by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders for a failure to release adequate information about re-offending by non-UK ex-offenders, the government still refuses to disclose the scale of the problem - with a recent ministerial answer declining to reveal details.

The Migration Watch UK summary finds:

  • There are 9,000 FNOs in UK prisons (11% of a total prison population in 2019 of 82,200).
  • Non-EU FNOs make up around 5,100 (or 57%), EU nationals account for 3,900 (or 43% - 2019).
  • In the year to June 2020, there were also 9,400 FNOs living in the community. This has more than doubled from just under 4,000 in 2012.
  • There were 4,700 FNOs removed in the year to March 2020. The number of such returns fell from 6,200 in 2016. Returns averaged 5,300 (2010-19).
  • Despite non-EU FNOs forming a majority of those in UK prisons, only a third of those actually removed in 2019 were from outside the EU.
  • The average FNO was removed 139 days after release from prison (National Audit Office).
  • Obstacles to removal include: ‘last minute’ asylum claims, Judicial Review applications, further representations, documentation issues and absconding.

A Migration Watch UK spokesperson said:

The massive increase in the number of foreign ex-offenders living in the community may be putting the public at unnecessary risk. We’ve already seen horrific cases of reoffending by those who should not have been here at all. The government must deliver on its promise to ensure more effective enforcement in this area.


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