The British Government has announced plans for rioters without UK citizenship to be deported “at the earliest opportunity”. The move re-ignited the Coalition row over tough sentences being imposed on children and adults who took part in the disorder.
Immigration Minister Damian Green told the Standard: “We strongly believe that foreign national lawbreakers should be removed from the UK at the earliest opportunity.
“We also have the power to cancel the visas of foreign nationals found guilty of criminal activity, and this is something we will be looking to do when these cases arise.
“Last week saw unprecedented criminality on our streets and the courts are now dispensing firm justice to ensure those responsible are punished.”
Among those accused of taking part in the disorder is a failed asylum seeker alleged to have looted clothes and cash from the Walthamstow branch of department store BHS.
Algerian national Abderazak Boussag, 23, was arrested after police found the fingerprint of his teenage co-defendant at the store and raided his home in Leyton.
Offenders can use the Human Rights Act to appeal against deportation on grounds that they are entitled to a family life or to avoid the risk of torture. Many of these appeals succeed.
The latest hard-line response to the riots was criticised by some Liberal Democrat backbenchers.
Bradford East MP David Ward accused Mr Green of headline-grabbing and said each case should be dealt with on its merits.
“This almost seems to be a competition to see who can come out with the most macho response,” Mr Ward said. “To have a blanket policy for all is just nonsense.”
Tom Brake, Lib-Dem home affairs spokesman, said the Government would “need to exercise caution”, particularly in cases where foreigners have families established in the UK.
Lib-Dems have attacked David Cameron‘s calls for “zero tolerance” to street crime and his backing for long sentences being handed down by the courts.
Plans to strip away benefits have also been described as “bonkers” by Wells MP Tessa Munt, while there has also been opposition to removing council homes from troublemakers.
The UK Border Agency has revealed that about 150 of the 2,800 arrested over rioting so far are thought to be foreign nationals, though it stressed these were only preliminary figures.
Under immigration rules, criminals from outside Europe are automatically put forward for deportation if they are sentenced to 12 months in prison.
The same applies to Europeans given a 12-month sentence for drugs, violent or sexual crimes, or 24 months for other crimes.
But courts can recommend deportation in other instances, and the UK Border Agency is able to revoke visas for anyone found guilty of criminal activity. Research today showed courts are handing down prison sentences that are on average 25 per cent longer than normal.
Analysis of court records by the Guardian also suggested the majority of those who have been through the justice system so far live in poor neighbourhoods, with 41 per cent of suspects living in one of the top 10 most deprived places in the country.
Figures were set to show the prison population has risen by 700 in the past week to hit record levels, raising fears jails will soon be full.
Prison Governors Association president Eoin McLennan-Murray said there were 1,500 empty prison places available, but the Ministry of Justice is drawing up contingency plans in case space runs out.
Figures released on Wednesday showed that so far 1,297 people had appeared in court charged with offences linked to the riots, with two- thirds remanded in custody.
In November 2005, Interior minister at the time, Nicolas Sarkozy, has ordered the expulsion of all foreigners convicted of taking part in the riots that have swept France for 13 nights.
He told parliament 120 foreigners had been found guilty of involvement and would be deported without delay. Police said overnight violence had fallen significantly – although trouble still flared in more than 100 towns. The government has declared a state of emergency in Paris and more than 30 other areas to help quell the unrest. The northern city of Amiens was the first to impose an overnight curfew under the new powers, which came into force at midnight. The western towns of Rouen, Le Havre and Evreux and the French Riviera region have also said they will implement the measures.
However the Seine-Saint-Denis region north-east of Paris, where the trouble started almost two weeks ago, said it would not impose a curfew after violence diminished for a third night running. Mr Sarkozy told MPs that non-French nationals – “not all of whom are here illegally” – had been convicted of taking part in the attacks. “I have asked the prefects to deport them from our national territory without delay, including those who have a residency visa,” he said.
Senior interior ministry official Claude Gueant said police had seen “a very significant drop” in the intensity of the unrest. The number of cars set alight across France overnight Tuesday to Wednesday fell to 617, hundreds fewer than the night before. Some 280 people were arrested and disturbances broke out in 116 areas, half the number affected the preceding night. However, the authorities in Lyon said public transport would not run after 1800 GMT on Wednesday following a petrol bomb attack on Tuesday. The areas covered by the emergency powers extend from the English Channel to the Mediterranean, including Paris suburbs and major cities such as Lille, Marseille and Toulouse. The powers, which can be extended by parliament after 12 days, allow a state of emergency to be declared in defined areas, restricting the movement of people and vehicles. Police are entitled to carry out house searches and ban public meetings. Minors are subject to the law between 2200 and 0600 (2100 and 0500 GMT) unless accompanied by an adult, and are also banned from buying petrol. Nearly three out of four French people support the powers, according to a poll published in the daily Le Parisien newspaper. But some opposition parties, and the French magistrates association, have described them as a danger to civil liberties. The far-right French politician Jean-Marie Le Pen told the BBC that rioters should have their French citizenship revoked. The nightly protests have gripped deprived areas where unemployment is rife and residents complain of racism and discrimination. The unrest was first sparked by the deaths in the run-down Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois of two youths, who were accidentally electrocuted at an electricity sub-station. The emergency powers handed to local authorities have been invoked under a 1955 law. This is the first time they have been implemented in mainland France.
(Story on France from BBC NEWS)