Foreign Prisoners Handed £500 Cash Cards to Go Home
Tom Whitehead, Telegraph (London), Dec. 22, 2009
More than 2,000 foreign prisoners have been handed the money in the last two years in a desperate bid to clear Britain’s overcrowded jails.
Some prisoners are given the money even though they are also freed from their jail terms up to nine months early.
They can spend it on anything they wish once they have returned home and is part of a package worth up to £5,000 each.
It means the taxpayer has funded more than £1 million alone just to give overseas criminals who have preyed on Britons cash in their hand.
One of those was a Malaysian migrant who killed a 17-month-old baby.
Dominic Grieve, the shadow Justice Secretary, said: “This is simply outrageous. It is bad enough that Gordon Brown lost control of our borders and has let thousands of foreign criminals into the country.
“Now we learn that foreign prisoners are being given cash cards loaded with hundreds of pounds of taxpayers’ money. The lesson is clear: under Labour, crime pays and the taxpayer foots the bill.”
The cash cards are part of the so-called Facilitated Returns Scheme which was launched in October 2006 and encourages overseas offenders to return to their home country once they have passed the point they would be released if British.
It is aimed at preventing lengthy and expensive legal battles against deportation and can see inmates given resettlement packages worth up to £5,000, with most coming in the form of “in kind” support.
One in four of the foreign criminals who was deported last year only went home after being offered a voluntary return package–a 60 per cent increase in such agreements in one year.
In total 2,200 prisoners have taken advantage on the last two years meaning £1.1 million of public money has been spent just on providing cash cards to encourage offenders who have no right to be in Britain to leave, including £1.1 million in cash.
The overall bill, including the full packages, runs to several million pounds.
Under a separate early removal scheme, foreign prisoners can be freed up to 270 days in advance of their release date so long as they are willing to return home and can still take up the returns packages.
The cash element was quietly introduced by the Home Office in October.
The cards can be used as Visa chip and pin meaning the prisoners could feasibly even buy duty free on the plane home.
However, a Home Office spokesman insisted most deportees are returned on charter flights where such services do not exist.
“Every day that we can get these individuals out of the country early saves taxpayers over £100 a night in detention costs. Last year we removed a record 5,400 foreign national prisoners.”
Matthew Elliott, chief executive at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “It’s a disgrace that we bribe foreign criminals to go home at all, they should be deported immediately. The fact that we also give them a hefty cash bonus to spend as they wish will rightly anger the law-abiding taxpayers who are footing the bill for this hare-brained scheme.
“The Government’s attitude to foreign criminals has been far too much carrot and not nearly enough stick, and this sort of treatment is financially and morally unjustifiable at a time when ordinary people are struggling to make ends meet.”
There are just under 12,000 foreign prisoners in jails in England and Wales, making up one in seven of the population behind bars.
One of those to have taken up the returns package is Malaysian Agnes Wong, 29, who was jailed for five years in 2008 for the manslaughter of toddler Hugo Wang she was supposed to be child-minding.
She was released in July this year, having served the minimum jail term of two-and-half years, including her time spent on remand, and put on a plane home with returns package worth £4,500.
Phil Woolas, the Border and Immigration minister, said: “Our Facilitated Returns Scheme saves the taxpayer money because foreign criminals are removed direct from jail or immigration detention, often before their sentence ends.
“This means foreign lawbreakers cannot drag out the removal process for months with frivolous appeals which clog up the legal system.”