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Out of control


In the past seven years, the government has deliberately let 1,023 foreign prisoners return to society without deportation hearings. The policy was to release them without any check of their status, in order to meet its own target of cutting the number of asylum claims. Public safety didn't come into it.

BBC's Panorama programme on 14 May nailed the lie that there had been some kind of blameless system failure to consider released foreign prisoners for deportation.

It showed that Blair, in an attempt to stave off criticism over asylum seekers and immigration, had insisted that the number of failed asylum seekers being deported would soon outnumber those coming into the country. This was to be called 'Tipping the Balance'. The Immigration and Nationality Directorate dutifully responded by instructing its staff to chase only for deportation those who could help fulfil Blair's 'Tipping the Balance' target.

So when police or prison officers contacted the IND with foreign prisoners to be considered for deportation, they were told the priority was failed asylum seekers. Released offenders who may be a danger to the public or even illegal immigrants were not for deporting.

In this way, the executive was doing what it wants, overriding the courts' direct, explicit recommendations that the prisoners should be deported after they had been released. This was not a cock-up, rather a deliberate policy to endanger the public. Tough on crime, soft on the foreign criminal.

Now the government is claiming that all foreign criminals who have served prison sentences will be deported on release – a policy which Charles Clarke undermined almost as soon as the Prime Minister had made the promise. EU nationals will certainly be allowed to stay. An EU Directive which came into force on Sunday 30 April purports to make it illegal to deport "EU nationals" solely on the basis of criminal convictions. And of course anyone claiming they might be tortured. And anyone whose nationality cannot be discovered.

So there we have it. The hundreds or thousands of foreign prisoners "roaming our streets" were put there as a result of a deliberate government policy, and now they are lying about a new policy. Why would they do this? Do they have some reason to try to scare us?

Every sovereign state has the right to identify everyone who enters and who leaves the country. We have the right, and the duty, to control our borders.