Posted on December 6, 2007

Why It Would Cheaper to Send Jailed Foreigners on a World Cruise—Than Keep Them in a UK Prison at £43,000 a Year

This Is London, December 6, 2007

Locking up foreign criminals and failed asylum seekers who should have been deported costs £43,435 a year

Locking up foreign criminals and failed asylum seekers who should have been deported costs £43,435 a year for each one—making it cheaper to send them on a luxury world cruise.

The bill for holding the 2,550 foreign nationals in immigration centres while they fight their removal is £110million.

The taxpayer would save £9,125 a year for each of them if they were sent on a 21-country cruise on the P&O liner Oriana.

The £119-a-day cost of holding a detainee emerged in a written reply to Tory MP Damian Green. It compares to £90 for a prison cell or £97 a day to sail around the world on the Oriana.

Removal centres cost so much to run because they must follow rules to protect the ‘dignity’ of failed asylum seekers.

But the network of centres is increasingly used to house foreign criminals who have been freed but are fighting removal.

The centres must provide the detainees with activities and TVs and healthcare provision should be ‘at least’ NHS standard. Some are also often visited by dentists.

Immigration spokesman Mr Green said: ‘This is one more price we pay for the chaos and delays in the immigration system.

Thousands of people locked up for months in detention centres, including foreign prisoners the Government can’t deport, are costing the taxpayer more than £100million.

‘For each of them it would be as cheap to send them on a round-the-world cruise. How can the Government justify this expenditure when we are leaving ports unmanned by immigration officers?

‘Eighteen months after John Reid told us the Home Office was not fit for purpose, nothing much has changed.’

Matthew Elliott, of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: ‘It’s astonishing. The Home Office must get their act together to remove these people swiftly. Taxpayers can’t afford world cruises, with interest rates soaring and the tax burden increasing.

‘Now we know where our money is being frittered away.’ Between 1,200 and 1,500 foreign criminals are being held in removal centres in the wake of last year’s mistaken release scandal, in which 1,000 were allowed to go free without being considered for deportation.

Now, despite finishing their sentences, they are detained alongside failed asylum seekers while cases are processed, often for more than a year.

One foreigner at Colnbrook Removal Centre, near Heathrow, has been detained for almost three years, a report by prisons’ inspector Anne Owers says.

The bill for this individual alone would be £130,000. By contrast the Oriana cruise liner, which departs from Southampton in January next year, costs £7,899 for an 82-day trip, or £97 a day.

Home Office Liam Byrne said: ‘We will not hesitate to detain illegal immigrants as part of our work to remove them from Britain. To keep the public safe we will invest in the level of security that is right. This simply doesn’t come free.’

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith will announce today that skilled migrants must obtain a certificate in English from next year before they can enter Britain.