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United Kingdom: Reform of Facilitated Returns Scheme Increases Cash-Incentive for Foreign National Prisoners to Return Home

(Nov. 23, 2010) In an attempt by the coalition government to address overcrowded prisons, foreign national prisoners serving time in the United Kingdom can agree to receive a £1,500 (about US$2,400) cash gift if they return to their countries of nationality prior to completion of their prison terms. The Facilitated Returns Scheme (FRS), launched in 2006 to encourage the voluntary removal of foreign offenders from the UK, in its initial design provided for a £43 (about US$68) discharge-grant with an outstanding amount of up to £4,500 (about US$7,200) payable in kind (for re-integration purposes such as training or business start-up costs) once the individual returned home. (Foreign National Prisoners, HM Prison Service website,
(last visited Nov. 22, 2010).)

A reform of the FRS introduced in October 2010 trebles the cash amount offered foreign national prisoners to £1,500, most of which should be spent on reintegration, while removing all in-kind payments. The reform is controversial, however, because it gives the appearance that the UK government is paying foreign criminals to leave the country, which they are obliged to do in any event at the end of serving their sentences.

One case in particular that that provoked a public outcry was that of Agnes Wong, a Malaysian national. Wong was convicted by a Manchester Crown Court in 2008 for manslaughter in the death of a 17-month-old baby. Having served a little over one year of her five-year term, she accepted a payment worth £4,500 and returned to Malaysia. (Peter Hutchinson, Foreign Criminals Paid to Return Home: Case of Agnes Wong, THE TELEGRAPH (Nov. 10, 2010),

In defense of the program, Damian Green, UK Immigration Minister said: “[t]he Facilitated Returns Scheme is a practical solution that not only saves the taxpayer money in the long run, but also means foreign criminals are removed as soon as possible denying them the opportunity to re-offend or drag out the removal process with frivolous appeals.” (Damian Green Defends Return Scheme for Foreign Prisoners, Home Office website (Nov. 10, 2010),

In addition, the Home Office stated, in response to a request made pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 concerning certain features of the FRS:

Since 2006, over 16000 Foreign National Prisoners (FNPs) have been removed from the United Kingdom. All foreign nationals subject to removal are considered by the National Offender Management Service under the Early Removal Scheme, which allows for early removal up to a maximum of 270 days prior to the halfway point of the sentence. Under ERS, approximately 25% of all foreign national prisoners in 2009 were deported prior to the end of their sentence. (Early Removal Scheme (ERS) and the Facilitated Release Scheme (FRS), Home Office website (Aug. 26, 2010),

In the same response, the Home Office said that an estimated £4.3 million (about US$6.8 million) was spent on having foreign national prisoners removed between October 2006 and March 2009. At the same time, roughly 400 prison places per month were no longer occupied by foreign national prisoners, representing a monthly savings of approximately £1.2 million (about US$1.9 million). (Id.)

Written by Marcus Sohlberg, Law Library of Congress Intern, under the supervision of Kersi Shroff, Co-Director of Legal Research, Global Legal Research Center, Western Law Division.