Britain: The largest number of foreign prisoners come from Jamaica and Nigeria
Foreign prisoners now make up almost one in six of Britain's jail population and are costing the taxpayer almost £400 million a year to keep, new figures show.
The explosion in the number of overseas inmates has been the main driver behind the overcrowding crisis that has pushed the total above 80,000.
Figures published by the Home Office in a parliamentary written answer show there are now 12,122 foreign prisoners compared to around 10,000 just a year ago.
Over the past five years, while the number of British prisoners has gone up by about 10 per cent, there has been an 80 per cent increase in foreigners, taking up 4,000 more prison places than anticipated.
The prison population is now made up of people from 164 different countries, with the largest number from Jamaica (1,490), followed by Nigeria (1,070).
There are 879 prisoners whose nationality is put down as "unrecorded".
Damian Green, the Tory immigration spokesman who obtained the figures, said: "These are truly shocking. They show what happens when the Government loses control of our borders.''
He added: ''We seem to attract criminals from all over the world, and the British taxpayer ends up paying for them. Many of these criminals come from friendly, democratic countries where deportation could be arranged. If we could remove the Jamaican prisoners alone we would save £49 million a year. And why are there nearly 1,000 people who have gone through the criminal justice and been jailed without the Government even finding out where they come from?''
The overcrowding crisis has led to calls for fewer and lesser prison sentences to be handed down by the courts.
But if there were not so many foreign inmates, there would not even be a crisis. In 1996, there were fewer than 5,000 overseas prisoners.
Research by the Prison Reform Trust found that at two prisons - Verne, in Dorset, and Morton Hall, Lincs - foreign nationals made up half of the population and were a quarter of the total in 16 jails.
Prison Service figures show that the vast majority of foreign national prisoners have committed drugs offences.
Eight in 10 jailed foreign women have been convicted of drug offences, an indicator of how many women from poor countries become bit-players in international criminal enterprises.
Figures show that foreign nationals have a lower re-conviction rate, largely because so many leave the country either voluntarily or forcibly.
However, last year's fiasco when it was disclosed that many foreign nationals had not been considered for deportation before their release, more than 1,000 were detained after completing their terms while it was decided how to remove them.
That also cost the taxpayer millions of pounds.
John Reid, the Home Secretary, has secured a deal in Europe whereby EU national prisoners can be repatriated. There are about 2,000 EU nationals in British jails though we would have to accept back around 800 British nationals in EU prisons.
The Government's latest figures show that the annual cost per prisoner place was £32,888 in 2005-06. Mr Green said this meant the annual cost of keeping 12,000 foreign inmates amounts to £398,339,456.
Foreigners in UK jails cost £398m
Jamaican prisoners cost Britain £49m a year