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Foreign National Prisoners

Volume 514: debated on Tuesday 20 July 2010

12. What recent discussions he has had with (a) the UK Border Agency and (b) foreign Governments on the compulsory transfer of foreign national prisoners to detention in their country of origin. (9424)

Ministry of Justice officials have been in regular contact with their colleagues at UKBA to identify suitable prisoners for transfer under the additional protocol to the Council of Europe convention on the transfer of sentenced persons. A number of cases are currently being pursued. Discussions between officials of member states of the European Union on the implementation of the EU prisoner transfer agreement took place in April.

We currently have the pleasure and privilege of paying for the board and lodging of 752 Nigerians in British jails at a time when we are giving that country £132 million a year in development aid. Her Majesty’s Government have been negotiating with the Nigerian Government on the compulsory transfer of those prisoners since 2007. Could we urge them to get a move on?

I understand my hon. Friend’s concern about this and note the ten-minute Bill he recently introduced. The Government believe that wherever possible foreign national prisoners should serve their sentences in their own country. Negotiations on a compulsory prisoner transfer agreement with Nigeria will be concluded as soon as changes to Nigerian domestic legislation have been made.

In evidence to the Home Affairs Committee this morning, Lin Homer, the head of UKBA, told us that 14% of the prison population were foreign nationals and that 700 officials were working in her department on this issue. As it is a priority for the Government, is the Minister confident that he has sufficient staff dealing with what is a very important issue?

The Government are determined to improve performance in the removal of foreign nationals and in prison transfer agreements. The right hon. Gentleman will know that only 41 prisoners were transferred this year, but compulsory transfer has been available only since November 2009, so we expect performance to improve.