Thursday, November 11, 2010

Britain bribes foreign criminals to go home

Foreign rapists and muggers are being offered £1,500 each in cash if they agree to go home part of the way through their sentences. When they leave they receive a cash card loaded with £500.

A further £1,000 of British taxpayers’ cash will be payable within the first three months of their arrival home. The card will be programmed to work in ATM machines around the world.

Details of the controversial ‘bribes’ emerged after David Cameron promised to get foreign convicts go home rather than clog Britain’s jails.

The payment is three times the amount of cash that was offered by Labour, which had a similar scheme to send foreign convicts home. The offer is even available to criminals who have served their entire sentence in Britain – at a cost of £45,000 a year. They will get a cash payment of £750.

In opposition, the Tories said the scheme was ‘simply outrageous’. Dominic Grieve, then Conservative justice spokesman, said: ‘The lesson is clear: under Labour, crime pays and the taxpayer foots the bill.’ Now the Coalition says the scheme will save money, because it is cheaper than forcibly removing foreign criminals or leaving them in jail.

Immigration Minister Damian Green said: ‘Every day that a foreign national is held in prison costs the taxpayer money – that is why I want to see them removed from the UK at the earliest opportunity. 'The 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.’

Once the criminals return home they have to make a claim that they need cash for rent, private healthcare or help to establish a business before they can obtain the £1,000.

Officials have struggled for years to deport foreign convicts and more than 11,000 are currently taking up space in Britain’s packed jails.

On Monday, the Daily Mail revealed how the Prime Minister had decided to spearhead a campaign for them to serve their sentences back home. He plans to tear up prisoner transfer agreements that mean convicts cannot be returned home without their consent.

Yesterday, he held what were described as ‘positive’ talks in Beijing about returning the 364 Chinese inmates in UK jails. The Government has introduced the enhanced payments as part of the drive to return foreign convicts to their own countries.

When Labour implemented the idea, it offered only £500 in cash, backed by varying amounts of ‘support in kind’. This could have included advice on setting up a business. At one stage, the total value of the package was £5,000. But the offer of in-kind support did not prove tempting to many criminals. Instead, they used human rights laws to argue that – after their release – they should be allowed to remain in Britain permanently.

Last year, 5,535 foreign prisoners were deported, of whom 30 per cent received financial incentives.

Yesterday Philip Davies, Tory MP for Shipley, said: ‘I think most people will think this obscene – people who should be kicked out of the country with nothing being asked to leave the country with a bribe. ‘It’s no wonder our prisons are so full with foreign criminals if they know they are going to get £1,500 when they leave.’


Migrant skills go to the top of the list in Australia

The points system for skilled migrants that notoriously preferred hairdressers over Harvard scientists is about to be abolished. Immigration Minister Chris Bowen is scheduled to announce in Sydney tomorrow a new points system in keeping with wider reforms to skilled migration.

The reforms shift the emphasis to high skill levels and employee sponsorship, making it harder for overseas students with low-quality Australian qualifications to secure permanent residency.

Stricter rules for skilled migration have damaged the business model used by private colleges and universities to attract students and fee revenue.

In China, Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans rejected any suggestion the commonwealth should compensate education providers for lost income. "It's not about us making up the shortfall. I mean, universities are a business," he told the HES. "Some universities have gone into the international student market in a larger way than others."

An officially sanctioned and relatively easy pathway from local qualification to permanent residency as a skilled migrant helped create a multibillion-dollar export education industry.

Now, graduates will have to fit within July's new skilled occupation list, which gives prominence to high-skill jobs in health and engineering, and pass a strict new points test.

"The current weighting of points test factors leads to perverse outcomes such as the situation where a Harvard qualified environmental scientist with three years' relevant work experience would fail the points test, while an overseas student who completes a 92-week course in a 60-point occupation [such as cookery or hairdressing] would, with one year's experience, pass," says a discussion paper issued by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

The test gave an advantage to low-skill occupations on the Migration Occupations in Demand List, which was axed in February by Senator Evans when he was immigration minister.

Monash University researcher Bob Birrell said a reformed points test would allow the government "to apply a more discriminating filter to select the best applicants". This was possible because earlier decisions had slashed the number of points-tested places available while the number of former students seeking those places had risen sharply.

The discussion paper says in these circumstances, "Australia can, and should, select the best and brightest migrants for independent migration".

Senator Evans said universities understood the danger of becoming too reliant on one market. "I think most of them have managed that risk quite sensibly over the years," he said. "They know they're vulnerable to such movements, as other industries are, and they'll just have to manage that as they work through the issues.

"But the fundamentally important issue at the moment is that the appreciation of the dollar is impacting on our export industries. It's going to impact on education. But it's not a question of the government picking up the tab for that lost revenue. They'll have to adjust their businesses. "My role is to try [to] support them by encouraging participation in international education in Australia."

February's discussion paper floats possible changes to reward superior levels of English and applicants with higher degrees. It also flags a relaxation of the emphasis on youth, saying the test "does not adequately recognise the trade-off between age and work experience, particularly for highly skilled professionals".

It canvasses a possible end to the points bonus enjoyed by those with relatives in the country or with Australian qualifications.

The paper says local qualifications attracted extra points because of "the general quality" of Australian education and the fact studies were undertaken in English. The poor English of foreign graduates from Australian institutions was one of the triggers for reform of skilled migration.

Maurene Horder, chief executive of the Migration Institute of Australia, said the new points system was keenly awaited. She said students and the market were anxious for clarity after a year of upheaval.

Sydney immigration lawyer Peter Bollard said reform was necessary since the old points test was not performing as expected. "It meant some people, especially with family sponsorship, could get through with very low skill levels," he said.


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