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Prisoners (Repatriation)

Volume 526: debated on Tuesday 29 March 2011

In 2010 about 5,000 foreign national prisoners were removed or deported. However, the number transferred through prisoner transfer arrangements is too low. We expect to transfer about 50 prisoners this year. The Government believe that foreign national prisoners should serve their sentence in their own country, and we are seeking to secure further compulsory prisoner transfer agreements wherever possible.

I thank the Minister for his detailed answer. Can he explain why that small number differs so markedly from the autumn predictions of the Prime Minister that thousands would be repatriated? What is holding things up, or was that just a wild estimate or a rash promise?

As I said, more than 5,000 prisoners have been removed. Of course, the situation will change in December when the EU prisoner transfer agreement comes into force. As a consequence of that, we will be able to remove many more prisoners to serve their sentence in other countries.

I thank the Minister for his robust answer. Of the nearly 200 countries in the UN whose citizens could potentially be here in prison, do the Government have any targets for the number of additional agreements we expect to implement outside the EU, or in particular to implement with those countries whose citizens constitute the largest number of prisoners in this country when they should be somewhere else?

We have to negotiate this with individual countries. We cannot simply remove prisoners to countries to serve a sentence there unless those countries accept it, but we can compulsorily remove prisoners if the countries agree. We already have agreements with Uganda, Rwanda and other countries, and an agreement is being negotiated with Nigeria. We would like to negotiate as many more arrangements as we can, but some countries simply disagree.