Around 70 foreign inmates were moved from open jails to closed prisons early this month, the BBC has learned.
More than 700 prisoners absconded from open jails in 2005
The Home Office said the inmates were moved at the beginning of May, as part of an "ongoing risk assessment".
Early on Friday of this week, some 140 foreign inmates at Ford open prison in Sussex were moved to closed prisons after 11 absconded.
The Prison Service said the men's cases were being reviewed due to the "current high abscond level amongst this group".
A spokesman for the Home Office said the decision to move 72 inmates in early May was a temporary measure - part of an ongoing risk assessment to ascertain inmates' suitability for open prisons.
However, the names and number of the prisons involved have not been released.
Home Office sources also told the BBC that Fowzi Badavi Nejad, the only gunman to survive the Iranian embassy siege in 1980, was among one of the 72 who were moved back into closed prison conditions.
Dozens of officers from Sussex Police were involved in the operation at Ford open prison early on Friday morning.
The 11 absconders, who went absent this month, were still at large and being searched for by police, it said.
It comes after the head of the Prison Service revealed earlier this week that about 700 prisoners in total - both foreign and UK citizens - absconded from open prisons last year.
Jamaican drug dealer Ransford Baker, who was facing deportation, is among those who went missing from Ford.