Thursday

18th Jul 2019

Investigation

Romania and Morocco have most expats in EU prisons

  • (Photo: Michael Bird)

Romania is the European country with the highest number of its expats in prison in the EU, while the nation with the highest number of prisoners is Morocco.

An international team of journalists has collected data from 25 countries to reveal these statistics for every EU country except Croatia, Malta and Cyprus.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Within the EU, Lithuanians have the highest percentage of their expat population in jail. (Photo: Mircea Opris)

On prisoners in EU jails, Morocco is estimated to come top (11,700), followed by Romania (11,511), Albania (5,722), Turkey (4,798) and Poland (4,449).

These are figures from 2015 (France 2014) and are estimates of the real number because many countries have different reporting methods.

Highest number Europe: Romania

In the majority of cases Romanians are convicted for petty crime, such as shoplifting, burglary and pickpocketing.

“In Germany, almost 60 percent of Romanians are in prison because of theft and this is pretty unusual - most people are in prison because of violent offences and robberies,” says Christian Walburg, doctor in Criminal Science at Westphalian Wilhelm University, Munster.

(Photo: Michael Bird)

Most Romanian convicts are poor and many suffer discrimination at home and abroad.

A large number also commit the same crime multiple times - which means they often return to prison for a series of minor incidents.

However there are Romanian gangs involved in online fraud, human trafficking and blowing up ATM machines to release the cash.

Officially, 2.9 million Romanians are living outside of their home country in the EU. Now they are the second largest expat population in the EU - after Poland.

Italy has the largest number of expat Romanians – over one million – as well as the highest number of Romanian prisoners.

In Italian prisons, for 10 years until 2015, Romanians were the biggest nationality in numbers.

But in 2016 this went down from 2,893 to 2,825.

“This is the first time the figures don’t go up. Why is this?” asks Patrizio Gonnella, president of Antigone Association, an NGO for protection of civil rights which has analysed Italian prison data for 20 years.

“Are Romanians more integrated [in Italy]? I don’t think so. Do they commit fewer crimes than two years ago? I don’t think so. The persecution of the police and judicial system is against another type. Now we have to face terrorism. Now there is the criminalisation of the Maghreb.”

From June 2015 to June 2016 the top foreign prisoner community in Italy - as in the EU - are Moroccans.

“The pressure of [Islamic State] terrorism will change the prejudice against Romanians,” says Gonnella.

Highest number world: Morocco

Morocco is the country with the highest number of convicts in EU jails and Germany is witnessing an increase in prisoners from Morocco and Algeria.

These have been predominantly young men from lower social classes looking for a better life in Europe. Many don’t have family bonds in Germany, can’t get a legal status, nor do they have the right to asylum, and find it difficult to access the job market in Germany.

“The biggest group involved in pickpocketing [in Germany] is Moroccans,” says Walburg.

“This number skyrocketed in the last few years and it’s a special group - young men without any perspective. They find it really hard to get their feet on the ground here.”

But in the EU the numbers of refugees from Iraq and especially from Syria are very low in the prison statistics. “The people from Syria are on average rather well educated,” says Walburg. “They have the money to come to Europe.”

Highest percentage: Lithuania

Within the EU, Lithuanians have the highest percentage of their expat population in jail.

From around 330,000 Lithuanian expats in the EU, around 2,000 are in prison, according to our estimate.

This percentage is at 0.59 - almost double the next highest countries, Latvia and Romania, on 0.39 percent.

This is not a crime wave. But it does show a trend.

Lithuanians are mostly involved in thieving gangs. Most of the products are stolen in the EU and brought back to Lithuania.

The gangs target northern Europe - especially the UK, Germany, Norway, the Netherlands and Ireland, but they have spread out across the continent.

Sixty-year-old Lithuanian career criminal Algirdas [not his real name] has spent time in jail in the UK, Lithuania and Latvia.

(Photo: Michael Bird)

According to his experience of meeting hundreds of Lithuanian criminals, starting a new life in a new country is hard for an immigrant and many cannot manage to survive with legal jobs.

Some turn to stealing, others are part of a network based at home. The prime stolen goods are: phones, computers, gadgets or building tools, which they can fence in the EU or sell in their own country on local markets.

“[In the UK], at first they'd steal expensive cars and drive them back to Lithuania, but once that alley was blocked, Lithuanians started disassembling cars and selling them in parts.” he says.

“Lithuanians are very creative, they'll come up with a way. The prisons are full of them since the Lithuanian and British police have started working hand in hand.”

Migration link 'impossible to determine'

The total prison population for the EU on 1 September 2014 was 620,540, according to Council of Europe figures.

Around 113,000 from this figure were foreign - a total of 18 percent. The majority of these come from the EU.

The figure for the 28 member countries has remained almost static between 2002 and 2014 - oscillating between 610,000 and 650,000.

Therefore changes in the migrant population across the EU in the last 14 years have not led to an increase in prison population, but this is difficult to prove.

“There are so many different forms of immigration and waves of people who migrate and under different circumstances and how well received they are in society or how prepared that society is,” says Christian Walburg, “so it’s impossible to say whether this leads to less or more crime. We have to look at circumstances and different conditions in which immigration is taking place. It can lead to both outcomes. So the picture is very complex.”

This project was financed by Journalismfund.eu

Prison suicide rates in France highest in Europe

Suicide rates per 10,000 inmates in 2017 in France stood at 12.6, higher than any other European country. The latest figures are part of a much bigger report out Tuesday by the Strasbourg-based human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe.

Investigation

Exposed: How Morocco lobbies EU for its Western Sahara claim

The European parliament's lead negotiator on the Morocco trade deal, French liberal MEP Patricia Lalonde, is also on the EuroMedA Foundation board along with former Moroccan state ministers and a top ranking official in Morocco's ministry of agriculture.

Exclusive

Despite pledge, Katainen met lobbyists without taking notes

Finland's EU commissioner, Jyrki Katainen told EUobserver in February his cabinet members "always" takes notes when he meets lobbyists. They did not on at least seven occasions, when talking about artificial intelligence.

Investigation

EU Commission paying too much for iPhones and IT

EUobserver has obtained internal documents and emails from within the European Commission that outline questionable contracts with outside suppliers who appear to be overcharging for goods and services.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. PiS & Fidesz claim credit for von der Leyen victory
  2. Von der Leyen faces gender battle for commission posts
  3. EU proposes yearly rule of law 'reports'
  4. Poland 'optimistic' despite new EU law checks
  5. What did we learn from the von der Leyen vote?
  6. Is Golden Dawn's MEP head of a criminal organisation?
  7. Finland rejects call to end sponsorship of EU presidency
  8. MH17 five years on: when will Russia be punished?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  2. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  3. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  5. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  6. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us