Faced with a rising population of foreign national prisoners (FNPs) in England and Wales, the Early Removal Scheme (ERS) was devised in 2003 to address the issue. Under this provision, prisoners from foreign countries are released to their nation of origin in advance of the end of their sentence.

The scheme sought to end the release of thousands of foreign nationals into the United Kingdom population once they served their prison time. The discovery of these releases prompted public outcry and generated enough political pressure for the scheme to be adopted.

Today, the UK Borders Act 2007 makes deportation of any foreign national prisoner automatic after serving a sentence longer than twelve months. But prisoners are still subject to early removal if they qualify.

Under this policy, all foreign national prisoners are reviewed for eligibility. Those deemed appropriate for early release are returned home up to 270 days prior to the end of their sentence.

FNPs serving life sentences or sentences without a designated end are not considered for removal.

While all prisoners are subject to the ERS, not all are released early. The following factors will prohibit prisoners from leaving prison before their normal release date:

  • The prisoner has repeatedly made threats of violence or has committed acts of violence while in prison
  • The prisoner has been found with or distributed Class A drugs while incarcerated.
  • The prisoner’s sentence is tied to terrorism or terrorism-related crimes.
  • The prisoner’s release would be detrimental to public safety.
  • The prisoner is believed to be planning further crimes or is believed to be planning to re-enter the UK.

Even with the Early Removal Scheme and the deportation procedures outlined in the UK Borders Act 2007, the number of FNPs imprisoned in England and Wales continues to rise. The population of foreign national prisoners has more than doubled in the past ten years, and now comprises 14% of all people in prison. The political and financial implications of this trend are severe and most likely will lead to further solutions aimed at decreasing the FNP population.