Ex-immigration minister Robert Jenrick proposes migrant crime data is published

Robert Jenrick
Robert Jenrick quit as immigration minister in protest at Rishi Sunak's Rwanda policy [Getty Images]

Details of nationality, immigration and visa status should be recorded whenever a criminal is convicted, ex-immigration minister Robert Jenrick has proposed.

Mr Jenrick has submitted an amendment to the government's Criminal Justice Bill, saying the data would help to inform deportation and visa policies.

"We would want to apply a higher level of scrutiny to nationalities that are higher risk," he said.

Rishi Sunak has been under pressure to cut net migration figures.

Revised estimates published in November indicated net migration - the difference between the number of people arriving and leaving Britain - reached a record 745,000 in 2022.

Mr Jenrick resigned as immigration minister in December in protest at the prime minister's Rwanda deportation plan.

His amendment, first reported by the Daily Telegraph, would mean a report presented to Parliament each year which would collate the nationality, visa and asylum status of every offender convicted in English and Welsh courts in the previous 12 months.

Mr Jenrick's proposal has been backed by 25 MPs, including Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg and Sir Robert Buckland.

If the amendment is submitted, it would be one of dozens submitted for the Criminal Justice Bill.

It would need to be selected to be voted on by the entire House of Commons as the overall bill continues its passage through Parliament, and would then become part of the government policy if it is backed by a majority of MPs.

A government source told the BBC: "We will consider the amendment and engage with colleagues in the usual way."

Mr Jenrick told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that in his role as immigration minister he encountered "significant and growing evidence that we [the UK] were importing crime."

He said: "In the field of drug production, the National Crime Agency have been very clear that a significant proportion of the UK's drug trade is being fuelled by Albanian drug production."

He added that this had led to him investing "a great deal of time tying to stop that".

Mr Jenrick said nationality was already taken into account when assessing visa applications as part of a "risk-based" strategy.

"What I'm proposing is that this data on crime plays a part in that. We would want to apply a higher level of scrutiny to nationalities that are higher risk," he said.

The Refugee Council told the BBC the UK's asylum rules were "already very stringent" and that "serious criminals are not allowed to stay" in the country.

Its CEO Enver Solomon said: "The idea that very many people seeking asylum are dangerous offenders is not the case."

The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford said official data on crimes committed by foreign nationals is"very limited".

The observatory's director, Dr Madeleine Sumption, went on to say figures in the public domain suggest there was "not much difference" between crimes committed between UK and non-UK nationals, but that more frequent publishing of figures "would help understand the impacts of migration on crime in more detail".

Although details of the nationalities of the people committing crimes is not collated, the Home Office does routinely publish details of the nationalities of those criminals who end up serving a prison sentence.

At the end of June 2023, there were 10,321 foreign nationals in prison in England and Wales, out of a total prison population of 85,851.

More than half of foreign prisoners were European. The most common nationalities were Albanian, Polish, Romanian, Irish and Jamaican.

Denmark and some US states apply a similar approach, he said.

Mr Jenrick said in Denmark "some nationalities are, in fact, more law-abiding than Danish citizens, but many are not and some very prominently are causes of, in the Danish example, violent crime."

Having data would enable government to "interrogate" the statistics on crime and make policy choices, he said.

"The public should be aware of the trade-off of migration," he said. "There is a prevailing orthodoxy that it is an unadulterated good. I don't think that's always the case."

Convicted criminals are already subject to visa restrictions. UK government guidelines state that any foreign national who has been convicted of a criminal offence in the UK or overseas and handed a custodial sentence of 12 months or more would "normally" be refused a visa for entry into the UK.

Mr Jenrick later told the BBC: "We cannot hope to fix out immigration system without understanding the problem."

He added: "There is mounting concern that the UK is importing crime, particularly violent crime, sexual assaults and drug production. We need to have transparency so the public know what's happening and policy can be formulated accordingly.

"An open immigration system is creating serious problems in communities, but without data we can't have an informed debate."