Page last updated at 06:46 GMT, Tuesday, 1 July 2008 07:46 UK

Inmate deportations increase 22%

Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre
Colnbrook removal centre: Last stop before Heathrow

A record number of foreign criminals have been removed from the UK in the first six months of this year, according to figures.

A total of 2,417 have been deported since January, 22% up on the same period last year and the most in the first six months of any year to date.

The Home Office is aiming to deport 5,000 by the end of this year.

Ministers have prioritised returning foreign prisoners who have completed sentences after a furore two years ago.

Then it emerged that more than 1,000 foreign offenders had been released at the end of sentences without being properly considered for deportation.

The scandal prompted the sacking of Home Secretary Charles Clarke. His successor said he would overhaul procedures, declaring parts of the system as "not fit for purpose".

Among those deported between January and June this year were 15 convicted killers, 137 sex offenders and 844 drug offenders.

'On target'

Immigration minister Liam Byrne said the figures showed the Home Office was now making progress.

A training shoe stuck in razor wire at Colnbrook Removal Centre

"In January I set the UK Border Agency the tough target of removing 5,000 foreign criminals by the end of the year, an increase on last year's record-breaking levels. I am pleased that we are on track to meet this target."

But the Conservatives attacked the Home Office's performance, saying far more foreign prisoners had been released than deported.

Shadow Justice Secretary Nick Herbert said: "Gordon Brown said he wanted a message to go out to foreign national criminals.

"In fact, by releasing twice as many foreign prisoners as the government has removed, the signal he has sent is that criminals can still come to the country, commit a crime, and the chances are they won't be deported but will walk free having been released early from prison."

Strict rules govern which foreign criminals can be removed from the UK. Offenders who have their family life in the UK, and in particular those from European Union countries, are among the hardest to remove on human rights grounds.

The killer of headmaster Philip Lawrence successfully argued in 2007 that he should be allowed to stay because he had no ties to the country of his birth.

Learco Chindamo arrived in the UK from Italy when he was six. He was 15 when he murdered Mr Lawrence outside his London school in 1995.

4,000 foreign prisoners deported
26 Dec 07 |  UK Politics

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