Foreign criminals should be deported when they have served their sentences – this is effectively the government’s position, and one that remains popular with voters.
On the face of it, the policy seems entirely reasonable; why should the UK show clemency to people who arrive on these shores and commit crimes against our citizens? And in most cases, it is probably justifiable.
Dig beneath the surface, however, and you will quickly discover a number of examples that are not so straightforward.
In recent months a couple of cases have caught the attention of City workers and other Londoners. In south London a man called Hilary Ineomo-Marcus is facing deportation despite having lived in Britain for the majority of his life. He has a British wife, British children, and a number of other British relatives. Moreover, since being released from jail for tax-related offences he has earned widespread praise for helping other prisoners reform their lives.
Another case concerns Kweku Adoboli, the former rogue trader who cost UBS £1.8bn.
Adoboli was born in Ghana but spent many of his early years in the Middle East, before moving to the UK as a child in 1991. Once a City high-flyer, his financial career ended in scandal; he was convicted in 2012 and served time until 2015. Since then his lawyers say he has been trying to raise awareness of his experience, warning other young financial workers from making similar mistakes. Tonight, he is being held at a removal centre near Heathrow and could be deported to Ghana this week.
No special privileges should be granted to bankers, or former bankers, such as Adoboli. The UK proudly operates a rule of law under which everyone should be treated equally. However, both of the cases above bring current laws, and the approach of the Home Office, into question.
Current policy says all foreign nationals sentenced to 12 months or more must be deported. But where is the value, or the justice, in deporting men who have served their punishments, pose no further perceivable threat to society, and appear to be striving to right their wrongs?
It must be possible to develop a system that takes a strong line on dangerous foreign criminals, yet isn’t so blunt as to deport reformed wrongdoers with decades-long links to the UK and the ability to contribute to our economy and society as a whole.
The planned deportation of Adoboli and similar ex-offenders looks not only draconian, but ultimately self-defeating.