Taxpayers in the United Kingdom are to foot the bill to revamp jails in Nigeria and Jamaica so that the convicts in British prisons can be deported without breaching their human rights, The Daily Mail reported on Thursday.
This is the latest move by the UK’s coalition government to persuade foreign convicts to serve their sentences at home.
It was revealed that a project is currently on going in Nigeria which supports the provision of “human rights training for prison officers” while another project will construct new facilities at a women’s prison in Lagos, to reduce overcrowding.
The report also claimed that funds are currently being spent in Jamaica to “assist Jamaican authorities in modernising their prison service and rehabilitation and reintegration activities.”
Jamaica tops the list of the nations with most prisoners in British jails, with 900 inmates, followed by Poland-750, Republic of Ireland-737 and Nigeria, with 594 inmates.
“Ministers have resorted to the tactic – designed to satisfy the human rights of inmates – after it emerged that the UK’s own prison system has turned into a ‘United Nations of crime” the British Tabloid reported on its website.
Research by the House of Commons library reveals how British jails contain inmates from 156 countries and the total number of foreign prisoners is rising despite pledges by the Prime Minister, David Cameron to address the issue.
It is estimated that by March 2012, there were 11,127 foreign inmates behind bars, at an estimated cost to the UK public purse of more than £420million. This is up from 10,778 in 2011.
The convicts, which includes rapists, murderers and burglars, now makes up more than one in every eight convicts. The figures were disclosed as the British Prime Minister faced more criticism on Wednesday over his foreign aid commitments.
Mr. Cameron was taking part in a radio phone-in when a pensioner called to tell him it was wrong that she was denied a cancer drug while billions were spent on overseas aid.
Meanwhile, it emerged that the dire need to create space in the packed jails has prompted ministers to take the extraordinary step of establishing a £3million annual pot to make it easier for convicts to serve their sentences back home.
The Mail argues that “splashing money on prisons abroad is certain to prove controversial.” But officials insist it will be cheaper in the long run than the annual £38,000 bill for keeping a single prisoner locked up here.
Tory MP Priti Patel said “Prison is always the best place for dangerous criminals, but our jails should not be used as hotels for foreigners. Ministers need to take action to deport them to serve their sentences in the countries they come from and then stop them from coming back to Britain.”
“Living in Britain is a privilege and foreigners who come here and flout our laws should be sent packing without delay” he added
Breaches of human rights at home
In November 2010, the Mail revealed how the Prime Minister had decided to spearhead a campaign for foreign criminals to serve their sentences back home.
To do this, ministers must be able to convince the courts that the offenders will not suffer breaches of their human rights by being made to stay in squalid conditions.
The Ministry of Justice said it had just signed a new agreement which should see a greater number of Albanian prisoners being transferred from the UK to complete their sentences.
Prisons Minister Crispin Blunt said: ‘We are already removing thousands of foreign criminals at the end of their sentence, or under transfer agreements to serve the rest of their sentence back home.
“We believe that, wherever possible, foreign national prisoners should serve their sentences in their own country. Not only will it save money for the UK, it will also mean that these prisoners will be closer to family and friends. This helps to support prisoners’ social rehabilitation and reintegration into society.”
He also added that the transfers will “help their home country to put in place any appropriate public protection measures on their release.”
“I hope this compulsory prisoner transfer agreement will be the first of many arrangements to free up prison spaces and reduce the burden to taxpayers of foreign criminals who should rightly become the responsibility of their own country and not the UK.”
The last government tried a string of desperate tactics to reduce the number of overseas inmates. Offenders were offered credit cards pre-loaded with more than £450 – funded by the taxpayer – if they agreed to return home.
The perk was part of a package worth up to £5,000 designed to ‘bribe’ them to leave the UK.