Foreign nationals tend to be over represented in prison systems in many countries; and sometimes there are separate prisons or parts of prisons for foreign nationals.
The rate of detained foreign nationals is staggeringly high in some countries, like in United Arab Emirates where the proportion is over 90 per cent. In Europe, foreign nationals make up an average of 21 percent of the prison population.
The increase in the population of imprisoned foreign nationals is a result of several factors, including mass movement of people across the world. It is also in part due to the disadvantages they face during the criminal justice process, such as increased targeting by the police, language barriers, a lack of access to legal aid, discriminatory sentencing and increasingly punitive approaches to immigration-related offences and drug policies.
Foreign nationals’ experience of prison is characterised by isolation, language barriers, limited or no family contact, discrimination and a limited understanding of the prison regime and broader criminal justice procedures. In addition, they face challenges linked to immigration status — such as deportation — as well as difficulty in accessing rehabilitation programmes. One distinctive right that foreign national have is access to consular support, although diplomatic missions are often not able or willing to provide this.
As part of our 2020-2023 strategy, we will highlight some of the challenges encountered by foreign nationals in prison. We will increase our work in ensuring respect of human rights of stateless persons or individuals without identification of their nationality in the criminal justice system, including those that are criminalised due to their legal status.
Ethnic and religious minorities
Rehabilitation and reintegration