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Anger over foreign criminals at large in UK

By Hayden Smith

Rapists and killers are among hundreds of foreign criminals who have dropped off the Home Office's radar.

Immigration authorities also lost track of overseas nationals convicted of kidnap, weapons possession and robbery.

They had been living in the community while facing removal from the UK.

Figures show 450 foreign national offenders (FNOs) absconded in two and a half years to the end of June.

Some were later located but the whereabouts of more than 200 were unknown up to two years after contact with officials ceased.

Conservative MP Tim Loughton, a member of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, called the findings "horrifying".

He said: "It is a mystery to me why we do not immediately deport these criminals, some of them highly dangerous, back to their country of origin, and let their authorities deal with them.

"The fact that these people are escaping the watchful eye of the Home Office and are back on our streets is horrifying.

"Innocent people going about their daily lives could be at risk."

If there is no immediate prospect of deportation or removal, convicted foreign nationals who have completed a sentence can be managed in the community.

They are required to report to officials at set times and can be subject to bail conditions and electronic monitoring.

Offenders are recorded as having absconded if their whereabouts are unknown and all procedures to re-establish contact have failed.

Figures obtained under Freedom of Information rules show 251 FNOs absconded in 2016, followed by 164 last year and 35 in the first six months of this year.

As of the end of June, 223 male FNOs had not been found.

Eleven females who absconded in 2016, plus unspecified numbers of five or fewer who absconded in 2017 and January to June this year, were also yet to be tracked down.

Offenders convicted of murder, manslaughter, rape, kidnap, weapons possession, robbery, conspiracy to defraud, theft, burglary and death by dangerous driving were among those unaccounted for.

Exact figures are not known for most offence categories, including murder, manslaughter and rape, as Home Office rules mean it does not disclose data if the number is five or less, so individual identities are protected.

The department also refused to give the nationalities of absconders on the basis that disclosure could hamper efforts to deport or remove FNOs by undermining border controls and agreements with other countries.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "We always seek to deport those who commit crimes and whose conduct poses a serious threat to the basic fundamentals of society.

"We have removed more than 44,500 foreign national offenders since 2010, and this week, like every week, more than 100 foreign criminals will be removed from the UK."

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