According to figures provided to the Council of Europe, it is likely that there are at least 40,000 European citizens detained in countries other than their own. In addition, there are at least 70,000 foreign nationals detained in European prisons. With current trends in migration, these figures look set to increase. Foreign prisoners and probationers form a largely forgotten population; they are marginalised by society who perceives them as unworthy of sympathy and they are marginalised within the prison system.

  • They are isolated from most other inmates through cultural differences and language barriers.
  • They are further isolated through distance from family and friends, who can very rarely afford to visit on a regular basis.
  • They are unlikely to be aware of their rights.
  • They tend to receive very little information, if any, in their own language.
  • They are often excluded from the prison-provided education programmes due to a lack of understanding of the local language.
  • Many find it difficult to gain access to work opportunities.
  • Language and cultural barriers also increase difficulties in access to health care and the level of health care received.
  • At the end of their sentences, many foreign national prisoners are deported to their home country with little or no preparation. Many have lost contact with their family and friends during their imprisonment abroad and find themselves homeless on their return. Many also return with health problems that need attention.
  • Prisoners or probationers returning to their home country from imprisonment abroad often fall outside the scope of statutory agencies, do not receive the supervision and support generally provided to released prisoners and are therefore at greater risk of re-offending. In some cases, this may mean that prisoners who have been convicted of serious offences such as violent or sexual offences may return to their home country without any supervision and are therefore at risk of committing further serious offences.
  • Their families suffer both during and after the imprisonment of a relative abroad.