James Slack, Daily Mail (London), July 9, 2009
British taxpayers are to provide £1million for a comfortable jail in Nigeria to take convicts whose crimes were committed in the UK.
The prison would house 400 Nigerian inmates incarcerated in our own packed prisons who cannot be forcibly sent home to complete their punishments.
Jails there are considered so rough that any prisoner the UK tried to deport could oppose their removal on human rights grounds.
But the Government hopes that by spending as much as £1million turning a rundown Nigerian prison into something approaching British standards, the convicts could be repatriated.
Lin Homer, the chief executive of the UK Border Agency, told MPs the deal would save taxpayers’ money, because the UK would no longer have to pay the £30,000-a-year cost of keeping inmates in our own jails.
‘We are in negotiations with Nigeria to help them establish better prison conditions,’ she said.
‘It’s about helping them generate a structure that can cope with the prisoners. It would be well worth the money to do so.’
But Matthew Elliott of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘It’s an absolute scandal that British taxpayers may foot the bill for a Nigerian prison.
‘The Government should not even entertain this nonsense proposal, particularly at a time when our own prison service is so desperately in need of funds.
‘If Nigerians are here illegally and are going to be deported, we should be sending them home immediately.’
Damian Green, the shadow immigration minister, said: ‘This should not mean in the long term we build prisons all around the world instead of sorting out our own deportation processes.’
Ministers have been frantically searching for a solution to the UK’s chronic prisoner overcrowding crisis since 2005, when the number of foreign criminals soared past 11,000–the equivalent of more than one in every eight inmates.
Prisoners have been offered cash windfalls–which some say are bribes–if they returned home voluntarily.
But this is the first time the Government has announced firm plans to provide funding for a jail overseas.
The idea had been suggested in relation to Jamaica, but never got off the ground.
It would require Nigeria to change its laws so prisoners could be sent back without their consent.
Human rights groups say current conditions in Nigerian prisons are appalling.
Amnesty International said there was severe overcrowding, and more than half of prisoners are awaiting trial–some for up to ten years.
During the same home affairs committee evidence session yesterday, Mrs Homer updated MPs on how the Home Office is dealing with two scandals–the 2006 foreign prisoner fiasco, and the discovery of up to 450,000 outstanding asylum claims.
Three years on from the mistaken release of 1,000 overseas inmates without them even being considered for deportation, almost two-thirds are still in the UK.
Incredibly, 87 of the 1,000 convicts–who included killers and sex attackers–have yet to be even traced. Of those who have been located, only 348 have been deported or removed.
The remainder have either been told they can stay–often because removal back to their homeland would be a breach of human rights law–or are still going through the deportation process.
Mrs Homer also revealed that, so far, 197,500 of the 450,000 asylum ‘legacy’ cases discovered by the Home Office in 2006 had been processed.
More than 30 per cent have been awarded asylum, in an exercise that has been described an amnesty by opponents. At current rates, more than 100,000 people with claims dating back years will be awarded permission to stay in the UK.