Report reveals foreign prisoners problem

A “REGRETTABLE” number of foreign national prisoners are forced to remain in a Suffolk jail because of Home Office deportation blunders, it has been revealed.

A “REGRETTABLE” number of foreign national prisoners are forced to remain in a Suffolk jail because of Home Office deportation blunders, it has been revealed.

HMP St Edmunds Hill, in Stradishall, near Newmarket, is being clogged up with prisoners who, despite having served their sentences, face considerable delays in being sent home.

The concerns, highlighted in an annual report from the prison's Independent Monitoring Board (IMB), comes just days after the Government admitted hundreds of foreign prisoners had been released from prison without being considered for deportation.

Board members said a variety of “excuses” had been given over the delay in releasing foreign national prisoners from Edmunds Hill, including not enough planes travelling to certain destinations, and lost documents.

The report said: 'Foreign nationals, awaiting deportation, are sometimes frustrated to find, at the last minute, that they have to stay in prison following the end of their sentence.

“The board views this with great concern. We find it baffling that again and again, papers are lost within the Immigration Service, including passports, or paperwork is simply left until the last minute.

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“With the prison population rising, you would imagine there would be some urgency to complete the deportation process in everyone's interest, not least the prisoner who has completed his sentence.'

Patricia Cave, Chairman of the IMB at Edmunds Hill - which became a category C men-only prison in 2005 - said although the prison was currently not overcrowded, it was definitely full.

“The custody office alerts the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) that there are foreign nationals in the prison, and asks what should be done about them,” she said.

“The IND then instructs that certain prisoners need to be kept at the prison because they may be in line for deportation, but nothing can then be done until the necessary documentation arrives.

“The Prison Service as a whole is overcrowded and it is a concern that prisoners are taking up custodial space if they should be deported.”

Home Secretary Charles Clark has faced numerous calls for his resignation amidst the row over the freed prisoners, many of whom have re-offended.

In a statement made to the House of Commons on Wednesday, he apologised for the “systematic failure” within the Home office, and said the situation would improve.

“This has been an unedifying episode for all of us in the Home Office who are charged with the protection of the public,” he said.

“I have set out the results of the intensive work being done by the agencies to deal with the outstanding cases.

“I have set out steps taken to improve our systems on foreign national prisoners including robust procedures which now mean that the appropriate processes are in place.

“And I have set out my proposals to deport more offenders, more quickly.”

The IMB report also highlighted concerns over other prisons sending inmates to Edmunds Hill, where their health requirements could not be met, as well as 'slow, wasteful, inefficient and slackly controlled contracts' for re-building and refurbishment work that was undertaken last year, including a new segregation unit.

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