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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 December 2007, 13:40 GMT
4,000 foreign prisoners deported
Immigration officer checking a passport
The prime minister has taken a hard line over foreign criminals
The government has deported more than 4,000 foreign prisoners this year, exceeding the target set by the prime minister, the Home Office said.

The figure meant that 50% more foreign prisoners had been deported than in the year before, officials said.

Those sent out of the country include 20 convicted of killings and more than 200 convicted of sexual offences.

"Foreign law breakers should be first in line for the first plane out of Britain," said the home secretary.

The government should not crow about meeting this artificially set target
David Davis

Prime Minister Gordon Brown set the deportation target in July in order to accelerate the removal process and release some of the pressure on the country's overcrowded prisons.

Prisoners with foreign citizenship can continue to be held in detention centres after they have completed their prison terms but have yet to be deported.

On Friday the prime minister came under fire after a memo was leaked that said officials have "no interest" in deporting foreign criminals jailed for less than a year.

The UK's head of immigration Lin Homer responded by saying staff were committed to sending home all overseas offenders, whether they are dangerous or not.

Those deported this year also include 1,100 drug offenders.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said: "We promised to remove 4,000 foreign national prisoners this year and we meant it."

But shadow home secretary David Davis said: "The government should not crow about meeting this artificially set target.

"Just last week it was revealed that the Borders and Immigration Agency has 'no interest' in processing the deportation of foreign national prisoners serving sentences of less than 12 months ? the vast majority of offenders.

"This means at least 4,000 foreign criminals convicted every year of serious offences like theft, burglary, benefit fraud and drug dealing will escape deportation and be released at the end of their sentence.

"The government is replicating the problem they are claiming to have solved."

Memo sparks foreign prisoner row
21 Dec 07 |  Politics
Foreign prisoners still at large
20 Feb 07 |  Politics
Foreign criminal unit disbanded
24 Sep 06 |  Politics
How the deportation story emerged
09 Oct 06 |  Politics
Blair sparks new deportation row
17 May 06 |  Politics
Q&A: Prisoner deportation process
25 May 06 |  Politics

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