Under a compulsory transfer agreement, more than 100 foreign nationals will complete their sentences in Albania
Tuesday 31 July 2012 17.46 BST
More than 100 Albanian nationals who are prisoners in British jails face being sent back to their country under a compulsory transfer agreement signed on Tuesday.
The Ministry of Justice said the deal was the first bilateral agreement signed with a country that had a large number of foreign-national offenders in British jails. There are 180 Albanian prisoners in Britain, of whom more than 100 may be eligible to be sent back.
The agreement will mean that Albanian prisoners in Britain may be sent to Albania to complete the rest of their sentence, and British prisoners in Albania may also be compulsorily transferred back to Britain.
The National Offender Management Service, which runs prisons in England and Wales, says it will start identifying Albanian prisoners who are eligible for transfer while the agreement is put before the Westminster and Albanian parliaments for ratification.
It is the third compulsory transfer agreement that Britain has concluded in recent years. The other two are with Libya and Rwanda. A European-wide prisoner-transfer agreement came into force last December to enable transfers to take place within the European Union within set time scales.
The moves are intended to have an impact on the backlog of 3,900 foreign nationals who are in the community while the UK Border Agency attempts to deport them after their release from prison. Legal challenges and casework "issues" are cited as the most significant causes of delays in their deportation.
The prisons minister, Crispin Blunt, said thousands of foreign criminals were being removed at the end of their sentences, or under transfer agreements to serve the rest of their sentences at home.
"We believe that, wherever possible, foreign-national prisoners should serve their sentences in their own country. Not only will it save money for the UK, it will also mean that these prisoners will be closer to family and friends. This helps to support prisoners' social rehabilitation and reintegration into society. Transfers also help their home country to put in place any appropriate public protection measures on their release," said Blunt.
"I hope this compulsory prisoner transfer agreement will be the first of many arrangements to free up prison spaces and reduce the burden to taxpayers of foreign criminals, who should rightly become the responsibility of their own country and not the UK."
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