There are 18,400 foreign national offenders (FNOs) in the UK, including 9,000 in prisons (who made up 11% of a total prison population in 2019 of 82,200).
Non-EU FNOs make up around 5,100 (or 57%) of the total FNO population in prisons; the other portion (3,900, or 43%) consists of EU nationals (2019).
In the year to June 2020, there were also 9,400 FNOs living amongst the general public. This has more than doubled from just under 4,000 in 2012.
Under Section 32 of the UK Borders Act of 2007, non-EU “foreign criminals” sentenced to 12 months or more in prison are subject to automatic deportation.
Those recognised as refugees may also be stripped of their right to stay if convicted of a ‘serious crime’, i.e. leading to a sentence of imprisonment of at least two years.
There were 4,700 FNOs removed in the year to March 2020. The number of such returns fell from 6,200 in 2016. Returns averaged 5,300 (2010-19 - Home Office).
Returns of EU FNOs have risen over time, while the number of non-EU-national returns has fallen. Only 32% of those returned in 2018/19 were from outside the EU.
The average FNO is removed 139 days after release from prison.
Obstacles to removal include: ‘last minute’ asylum claims, Judicial Review applications, further representations, documentation issues and absconding.
Brexit change UK rules regarding the deportation of EU criminals. After 31 December 2020, foreign national offenders (including EU offenders) can be removed (under the same rules as non-EU offenders) if they receive a custodial sentence of at least 12 months (under the UK Borders Act 2007).
The estimated annual cost of administration of FNOs is £850 million, according to the National Audit Office (NAO).