The Daily Telegraph reports that foreign murderers, rapists and other criminals are being offered cash bribes of up to £1,500 to return home after serving their sentences.
The Coalition, which wants to ease the pressure on overcrowded jails, has trebled the amount of money offered to prisoners who go back to their country of origin voluntarily.
Those who agree to return with up to nine months left to serve will receive a bigger payout than those who go at the end of their sentence, in an attempt to create more space in prisons.
Hundreds of criminals who have no right to remain in the country are likely to take advantage of the offer each year, costing the taxpayer millions of pounds.
Critics attacked the payouts as “obscene” when law-abiding families and victims were facing higher living costs, falling wages and widespread austerity measures.
The incentives, first offered by the Labour government in 2006 in an attempt to avoid drawn-out deportation battles, were criticised by the Tories when in opposition.
Under Labour, most of the support was made up of benefits in kind to ease resettlement, such as help with setting up a business or obtaining training or education.
The most the criminals were offered in cash was £500. The money is put on a prepaid card which means the criminals can go straight to a bank and withdraw the funds.
They are given £500 as they leave the country and another £1,000 within a month of arriving in their home country.
All they have to do is explain to the International Organisation for Migration, the body which runs the scheme overseas for the Home Office, how they intend to use the cash.
The handout is meant to help freed prisoners pay for such things as accommodation, setting up a business or medical treatment but officials were unable to say if any checks were carried out to see how the money was spent.
Foreign criminals could squander the cash and try to sneak back in to Britain.
The payouts have been tied in to an early release scheme under which foreign prisoners can have up to nine months cut from their jail term if they agree to return home.
Those who go early will be eligible for the full £1,500, while those who go at the end of their sentence will be eligible for £750.
British prisoners are given a £46 grant when they leave jail.
Last year, almost one in three – or 1,660 – of the 5,535 foreign criminals removed from Britain went voluntarily after accepting a handout, including a Malaysian migrant, Agnes Wong, who killed a 17-month-old baby.
If a similar number goes next year the bill for the taxpayer will be almost £2.5 million.
In opposition, Dominic Grieve, now the Attorney General, labelled the scheme “simply outrageous” and meant “crime pays and the taxpayer foots the bill”. Damian Green, who is now the immigration minister, said the then government had abandoned any attempt at removing foreign criminals and was instead “paying them to leave”.
On Tuesday, he said: “Every day that a foreign national is held in prison costs the taxpayer money, that is why I want to see them removed from the UK at the earliest opportunity.
“The Facilitated Returns Scheme is a practical solution that not only saves the taxpayer money in the long run, but also means foreign criminals are removed as soon as possible, denying them the opportunity to reoffend or drag out the removal process with frivolous appeals.”
The Home Office said the move would save money because the overall value of the package had been cut. Under the old system, packages were worth up to £5,000 but the majority was assistance “in kind” which is no longer available.
Lin Homer, the chief executive of the UK Border Agency, told the Commons home affairs select committee the change was “due to the current economic situation”.
Philip Davies, a Conservative backbencher, said: “People say crime does not pay but obviously it does if you are a foreign criminal. It seems quite obscene that criminals are basically being given £1,500 bribes for abusing our hospitality and committing a crime.”
On Tuesday it emerged that just a third of the 1,013 foreign prisoners wrongly released without being considered for deportation have been removed from the country since 2006.
More than 400 have been told they can stay, 121 are still facing deportation, 22 are serving new sentences and 70 are still missing. Source: Daily Telegraph.
Former Home Secretary Charles Clarke lost his job over the prisoner release mess, because it was revealed that most foreign prisoners should be automatically deported upon release. It seems odd that the country should now have to pay to deport them?
If a person is due for legal automatic deportation, which already costs the taxpayer several thousand pounds and often involves several private security guards flying all over the world, why should the Home Office also have to pay that person a ‘golden handshake’?
Overstaying migrants caught working illegally in the UK are deported every day without the need for a ‘cashback’ offer, so why should prisoners be treated any differently?
The Home Office argue that the scheme saves the taxpayer money by avoiding costly long drawn out appeals, which the prisoner could fund on legal aid.
What do you think about the scheme? Common sense or a waste of money?
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