Under which circumstances should foreign-born offenders be deported?

Eir NolsoeData Journalist
March 02, 2020, 5:40 PM UTC

Brits oppose deporting even serious offenders who immigrated as children and are sceptical of removing people with kids in the UK

The Home Office has said it makes no excuse for removing “dangerous foreign criminals”. But new YouGov research shows Britons disagree with the approach in many cases.

Public opinion echoes the advice in a leaked government report on the Windrush scandal, which recommends that the UK should stop deporting people who arrive here as children or reserve it only for the most serious cases.

A majority of Brits (58%) say foreign-born offenders who have committed a serious or violent crime should not be deported if they came to the UK as a young child, while just over a quarter say they should.  

A plurality of Brits also oppose deporting serious offenders who have children in the UK with a split of 42% against and 37% for.

Stories of offenders deported by the Home Office who have to go into hiding fearing for their lives are not uncommon. The public are divided on this issue when considering serious offences, with slightly more Brits against deportation if it puts the individual at risk of violence at 40% to 37%.

Britons have less sympathy with those who came to the UK later in life. Close to half support deporting people who came to the country as teenagers while 36% oppose it. And nearly four out of five Brits say serious offenders who arrived as adults should be deported.

The public are also less moved by circumstances such if a serious offender has a long-term partner in the UK (49% for/29% against) or would lack access to necessary medicine or healthcare upon deportation (44% for/30% against).

UK rules state that immigrants who have been sentenced to at least four years imprisonment will be deported except in cases where there are “very compelling” reasons not to. The same applies to a person who has been sentenced to between one and four years, is a persistent offender, or has caused serious harm although they are allowed more mitigating circumstances. 

Brits say people who commit minor or non-violent crimes should not be deported

The UK does not automatically deport someone who has been sentenced to less than a year in prison, is not a persistent offender or does not cause serious harm. But it can still happen if it’s deemed ‘conducive to the public good’.

Brits generally oppose deporting minor or non-violent offenders – especially if they came to the UK as children (72%) or teenagers (65%), or who have kids in the UK (65%). 

Similarly, a majority believe circumstances such as being at risk of violence upon deportation (61%) or having a long-term partner in the UK (57%) mean a minor offender should not be deported.

In fact, the only scenario where Brits are tied on whether a minor offender should stay or leave is if they came to the UK as an adult, with 41% for deportation and 42% against.

Campaigners claim some of the Jamaican nationals who were meant to be on the controversial flight two weeks ago and who may still face deportation are not dangerous criminals as the Home Office has said. They are people who came to the UK as children and committed one-time offences when they were young, say the campaigners.

Brits’ view on deportations of foreign-born offenders tend to fall within party lines. In every circumstance, be it a serious or minor offence, Conservative supporters are more likely than Labour and Lib Dem voters to insist on deportation.

But even Tory voters generally tend to oppose deporting minor offenders with the only exceptions being if a person came to UK as an adult (56% for). They are also split on whether a minor offender lacking ties to the country of deportation is enough reason to let them stay at 41% for and 42% against.

Photo: Getty 

See the full results here