Dozens of foreign-born terrorists avoided deportation on release from prison, study finds

Almost 50 foreign-born terrorists including the Reading attacker convicted last week of triple murder have avoided deportation on release from jail, according to a new study.

An analysis of convictions over the past 20 years has identified 45 foreign nationals who have served prison sentences for Islamist-inpsired terrorist offences but have been allowed to remain in the UK after completing their jail terms.

Khairi Saadallah, who stabbed to death three people in a park in Reading at the height of lockdown in the summer, should have been deported for a string of violent crimes before he went on the rampage.

Saadallah, 26, who was born in Libya, was on an MI5 watchlist at the time of the attack and had been convicted of 11 separate offences, including carrying knives.

Saadallah had only been released from prison 16 days before committing the atrocity but authorities were unable to deport him because it would have breached his human rights to send him back to Libya.

James Furlong, David Wails and Joseph Ritchie-Bennett were killed during the attack in Forbury, Gardens

Credit: Jonathan Brady/PA

Five out of the 45 terrorists on the list were born in Libya but other countries that feature include Algeria, Somalia, Eritrea, Pakistan and Sudan.

Eighteen of the convicted terrorists subsequently released and able to stay in the UK have known links to proscribed organisations that include Islamic State, al-Qaeda, al-Shabaab and the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.

The report by the Henry Jackson Society, a foreign policy think tank, calls for the deportation of foreign terrorist offenders to “form an integral part of post-Brexit national security”.

It warns that foreign terrorists now free to walk British streets “collectively represent a serious risk pool in British society”.

The report also raises concerns that many of the convicted terrorists were able to stay in the UK after being granted asylum.

Saadallah had fled Libya

Saadallah, who fled Libya in 2012, was given asylum allowing him to stay indefinitely in the UK in 2018 despite already having committed a string of offences at that time.

It implores the Government to “pursue innovative methods” to deal with foreign-born terror offenders that do not undermine obligations under international law.

Dr Rakib Ehsan, executive director of the Henry Jackson Society and the report’s author, said: “Unfortunately, the case of Libyan refugee Khairi Saadallah demonstrates how the UK’s benevolence and altruism have been to its detriment.

“It is deeply concerning that a man who had a history of assaulting an emergency worker and knife-related offences, was not deported due to human rights concerns and ultimately given the opportunity to stab three people to death in an English market town.”

Dr Ehsan went on: “Even more worrying is the fact that there are foreign convicted terrorists who have been released from prison who are still walking the streets. They collectively represent a serious risk pool in British society.

“The UK Government must change legislation to better facilitate the deportation of foreign criminals, and create an asylum system where national security is prioritised.”

The Henry Jackson Society trawled Home Office and Crown Prosecution Service records and other resources to identify the 45 foreign nationals convicted of terrorist offences who have served prison sentences and then been released and not deported. 

It found ten terrorists, including Saadallah, who had been jailed for non-terror offences that were serious enough to merit deportation but who remained in the UK. 

The most common nationality of offenders was Libyan.

The UK cannot deport prisoners to Libya over serious concerns that offenders face torture and other ill treatment on their return.

The report calls for the establishment of an Asylum Reform Taskforce to modify the system that allows people to stay indefinitely.

It suggests that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office should withhold aid money from countries that do not improve their human rights records which prevents the deportation of convicted terrorists to their home countries.

In total the think tank found about 100 individuals with a foreign nationality who have been convicted of Islamist-related terror offences.

But more than half remain in jail having been convicted of serious crimes. About a quarter had either claimed or were granted asylum in the UK.

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