Rebecca Camber, Daily Mail (London), October 24, 2011
Foreign looters from 44 countries have been locked up over the riots which scarred the country in August.
Robbers, vandals and thugs from as far afield as Afghanistan, Cuba, Ethiopia and Samoa joined in as shops were plundered and businesses set ablaze, causing millions of pounds worth of damage.
The sheer number from different corners of the globe who took part in the mayhem is one of the strongest indicators yet that the riots had nothing to do with political protest or civil unrest, but was born of greed and opportunist criminality.
Last night campaigners said anyone convicted of a riot-related offence should be thrown out of the country at the earliest opportunity.
Prison statistics revealed that 14 per cent–about one in seven–of those jailed for burglary, robbery, theft, criminal damage and disorder during the riots were born abroad. But the true number could be even higher as at least four per cent of those remanded in custody refused to tell police their nationality.
Jamaicans represented the largest group of foreign inmates, followed by Somali and Polish offenders. The list also included those from Colombia, Iraq, Congo, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.
Hundreds of other foreign suspects are facing deportation as separate figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that police have referred 367 ‘suspected foreign nationals’ to the UK Border Agency.
That number is expected to grow as police are still hunting thousands of suspects, with experts predicting it could take up to two years to sift through all the CCTV evidence.
The Ministry of Justice has released a breakdown of the nationalities of those jailed for riot-related offences committed between August 6, when the trouble exploded in Tottenham, and August 9, when disorder had spread outside London to Manchester, Wolverhampton and Birmingham.
A snapshot of the prison population on September 9 reveals that there were 153 foreign nationals and prisoners of ‘unrecorded nationality’–which in most cases refers to those from the European Union–representing 18 per cent of the 865 criminals imprisoned over the riots. That compares with 712 offenders from the United Kingdom.
One in four of those jailed for robbery were born abroad, as were one in ten convicted for violent disorder or other disorder offences such as possession of a knife or drugs.
Nationally, police have made more than 4,000 arrests, with 2,952 suspects held in London alone.
Yesterday Sir Andrew Green of the MigrationWatch pressure group called on the Government to kick out foreign rioters and looters.
He said: ‘It’s absolutely unacceptable that any foreign citizen should take part in a riot in Britain.
‘It’s important that the courts should recommend deportation in every case which would qualify.’
Immigration Minister Damian Green has said criminals born abroad should be thrown out of Britain.
In the immediate aftermath of the riots, he said: ‘We strongly believe that foreign national lawbreakers should be removed from the UK at the earliest opportunity.’
Yesterday Mr Green repeated his commitment to deport offenders from overseas, saying: ‘Foreign nationals who were convicted of offences during the riots will be returned home wherever possible.’
But Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Tom Brake has said the Government would ‘need to exercise caution’, particularly in cases where foreigners have families established in the UK.
Criminals from outside Europe are automatically put forward for deportation if they are sentenced to 12 months in prison.
The same applies to Europeans given a 12-month sentence for drugs, violent or sexual crimes, or 24 months for other crimes, and courts can recommend deportation in other instances.
However offenders can use the Human Rights Act to appeal against deportation on the grounds that they are entitled to a family life or to avoid the risk of torture.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: ‘It is important to bear in mind that this is only a snapshot of the prison population on September 9.
‘It would be misleading to suggest that it provides a complete picture of those involved in the riots.’