Almost 10% of Northern Ireland prisoners are foreign nationals
Almost 10% of Northern Ireland’s prisoners are foreign nationals, it has emerged.
Figures for the prison population in the region from 1 April this year show that 8.8% of all inmates at Maghaberry, Magilligan and Hydebank were from outside the UK or Ireland.
It is a disproportionate number when considering the percentage of residents in Northern Ireland born outside the British Isles was only 4.5% in the last census.
The majority of prisoners from overseas at that time were on remand awaiting court proceedings.
Out of the 411 unsentenced inmates in jail at the start of April, 84 of them (20.4%) were foreign nationals.
Of the 1,034 prisoners serving sentences, 43 of them (4.2%) were from overseas.
The majority of foreign nationals in jail were Lithuanian, followed by Romanians, Chinese and Polish.
Northern Ireland's largest jail, Maghaberry is a high security facility which holds male inmates that are both serving sentences and on remand.
Magilligan is a medium to low security facility in Co Londonderry which holds only male prisoners serving custodial sentences, while Hydebank in Belfast houses female prisoners and young offenders with a focus on education and rehabilitation.
Ulster Unionist Upper Bann MLA Doug Beattie has said the issue needs to be looked at further.
“There will no doubt be some concern at these statistics given that they appear to show the number of foreign nationals in our prisons is far greater than their proportion in society as a whole,” he commented.
“It is important that we look into this to establish the facts as to why this should be the case, and what we can do about it.”