PAC slams Home Office over “dysfunctional” approach to foreign national offenders

Management and removal of foreign national offenders comes under fire from Margaret Hodge’s committee

By Sarah.Aston

20 Jan 2015

The Home Office has failed to improve the management and removal of foreign national offenders (FNOs) despite a “ten-fold” resource increase, the Public Accounts Committee concluded today.

In their report Managing and removing foreign national offenders, the committee noted that very little progress has been made since 2006 when it found “systemic failure” in the Home Office’s approach.

In the report, PAC said public bodies are missing too many opportunities to remove FNOs early and resources are being wasted as a result of a lack of focus on early action at the border and in police stations.

The report added that “poor” joint working between UK prisons, “inefficient” case working by the Home Office and “very poor management information and non-existent cost-data” meant that the system in place “appears to be dysfunctional”.

PAC chair Margaret Hodge said: "We are dismayed to find so little progress has been made in the eight years since this committee last looked at this issue.

"The number of foreign nationals in prison has stayed stubbornly at around 10,000, and the number of foreign national offenders removed from the UK peaked at 5,613 in 2008-09 and has not matched that level since. Indeed the figure fell to 4,539 in 2011-12 and it remains below the peak levels. This is just not good enough.”

As a result of their findings – based on evidence from Home Office officials, including permanent secretary Mark Sedwill and director general of immigration enforcement Mandie Campbell – PAC set out six key recommendations for the department with the hope of seeing “significant progress” by the end of 2015.

According to the committee, the Home Office should:

  • Set out how it will improve the management of FNOs, the specific measures against which it expects to be held accountable, and the progress it expects to make against each measure in the future
  • Fundamentally rethink what management information strategy it needs, including identifying the data it needs across all its immigration information systems
  • Make better use of existing information from overseas and at home, to prevent more potential foreign national offenders from entering the UK
  • Alongside the Ministry of Justice, undertake a full review if the end-to-end process for FNO removal, focusing on where procedures can be streamlined and made more efficient
  • Alongside the National Offender Management Service, evaluate whether designated FNO prisons result in more early removals, and if so extend their use
  • Assess which schemes work best in removing FNOs early and quickly, revisiting current assumptions and expectations so that policy and resource decisions are evidence based

In response to the report, immigration and security minister James Brokenshire said: "Foreign nationals who commit crime in Britain should be in no doubt of our determination to deport them.

“We have removed 22,000 foreign criminals since 2010, despite an almost 30% surge in appeals – while the Immigration Act we brought in last year represents the most radical reform of the deportation process in four decades.”

He added: "That act has helped to rebalance the law in favour of the British public – by slashing the number of appeal routes for foreign criminals from 17 to four, and introducing tough new 'deport first, appeal later' powers which have already resulted in more than 400 deportations.

"We are also dealing more robustly than ever before with those who break our laws. Joint work with the police to intercept foreign nationals in custody suites has led to 3,300 removals since 2012, while police checks on the overseas convictions of EU nationals are up almost 600% under this government.”




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