Hundreds of Nigerian criminals will be sent home to serve out prison sentences under a deal set to be struck by ministers within weeks.
Talks are continuing into reaching a compulsory prisoner transfer agreement, which could see more than half of the 500 criminals from Nigeria currently in UK jails repatriated.
Prisons minister Jeremy Wright told MailOnline how ‘more foreign prisoners must serve their sentences in their own countries’.
Ministers have been ordered to step up efforts to end the scandal of more than one in eight prisoners being from overseas.
David Cameron vowed to end the practice of the British taxpayer picking up the bill for criminals with no business in the UK.
The Prime Minister said in 2010 that he would ’personally intervene’ to send more foreign criminals homes.
Britain has even made clear it will pay to build new prisons in countries like Nigeria to speed up the process of sending foreign criminals home. Up to £1million has been promised to upgrade Nigerian jails including a new wing at Kirikiri Prison in Lagos.
But to date little progress has been made. When the coalition was formed there were 11,135 foreign prisoners in UK jails, and this figure has fallen by just three per cent since to 10,786.
Each costs an average of around £40,000 a year to keep inside.
A prisoner transfer agreement was struck with Albania earlier this year to ‘free up space in prisons here and reduce the cost to the British taxpayer’.
It was the first major bilateral prisoner transfer agreement with a country outside the European Union.
There were around 250 Albanians in UK jails in June this year.
But securing an agreement with Nigeria would be seen as a much more significant breakthrough.
Latest figures show there were 534 Nigerian nationals in British jails, 485 men and 49 women.
Nigerians account for one in 20 of all foreign prisoners, putting the country fifth in the league table of nations whose citizens have been jailed in the UK.
Justice Minister Mr Wright said: ‘I am clear that more foreign prisoners must serve their sentences in their own countries.
‘That is why we are currently working with the Nigerian Government on a compulsory prisoner transfer agreement to increase the number of prisoners who are transferred.
‘Legislation allowing Nigeria to enter such an arrangement was passed earlier this year by the Nigerian Parliament. We are now working with them on the text of a final agreement.’
Overflowing jails abroad have made it increasingly difficult to deport prisoners to their own country.
It is argued that by paying for building new jails or making existing ones more ‘comfortable’ so they approach British standards, will be repatriated.
In April Mr Cameron said: ‘When people are sent to prison in the UK we should do everything we can to make sure that if they’re foreign nationals, they are sent back to their country to serve their sentence in a foreign prison.
‘And I’m taking action in Government to say look we have strong relationships with all of the countries where these people come from.
‘Many are coming from Jamaica, many from Nigeria, many from other countries in Asia.
‘We should be using all of the influence we have to sign prisoner transfer agreements with those countries. Even if necessary frankly helping them to build prisons in their own country so we can send the prisoners home.’