Deportation of Foreign National Offenders

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:10 pm on 7 February 2024.

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Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 5:10, 7 February 2024

The hon. Lady said that it is the current Government’s fault. She is quite correct in saying that. The Conservatives have been in control for quite some time now, and they have failed on numerous occasions to deal with the situation.

Stephen Shaw’s review of the issue identified many areas in which the Home Office had failed to deal properly with foreign national offenders. I appreciate that time is limited, but I want particularly to pick up on the excellent point from Kenny MacAskill about our responsibilities to people who are more British than foreign. Stephen Shaw reflected on that in his review, saying that

“a significant proportion of those deemed FNOs had grown up in the UK, some having been born here but the majority having arrived in very early childhood. These detainees often had strong UK accents, had been to UK schools, and all of their close family and friends were based in the UK… Many had no command of the language of the country to which they were to be ‘returned’, or any remaining families ties there… The removal of these individuals raises real ethical issues.”

He also said that

“the twelve month sentence criterion for deportation in the UK Borders Act is not a very good guide to criminality”— we can all think of sentences of 12 months or so that are not the types of sentences that some hon. Members read out earlier. He further said:

“I find the policy of removing individuals brought up here from infancy to be deeply troubling. For low-risk offenders, it seems entirely disproportionate to tear them away from their lives, families and friends in the UK, and send them to countries where they may not speak the language or have any ties.”

If we believe in rehabilitation, that means that if I were to commit a crime, I would go to prison, serve my sentence, and then be considered rehabilitated; I would not be sent to another country. We have a double standard in how we treat these people.

Stephen Shaw’s review also points out the inability of caseworkers to manage the FNOs within the system currently. It makes it clear that they are not being well managed, that casework is not being well managed and that people are not being prepared for return. He feels that all those circumstances lead to a risk that people will be brought back to a life of crime and will not be rehabilitated at all.

The independent chief inspector of borders and immigration has expressed the same concerns, saying:

“This is no way to run a government department.”

There is a lot that the UK Government could be doing better to achieve some of the aims that Government Members would put forward.