The UK is to spend £25m on building a prison in Jamaica so that foreign criminals in the UK can be sent home to serve sentences in the Caribbean.
Prime Minister inspecting a guard of honour
Prime Minister David Cameron announced the deal as he started a Jamaica visit.
The project has been agreed to break the deadlock in negotiations over a prisoner transfer deal between the two countries.
More than 600 Jamaican nationals are in UK jails but cannot be deported because of Jamaica’s poor prison conditions.
with his Jamaican counterpart
Officials say the foreign aid-funded deal could save taxpayers £10m a year when transfers begin in 2020.
More than 300 existing offenders are expected to be sent back under the Jamaica prison scheme, which covers those sentenced to at least four years who have 18 months or more left to serve in custody.
Currently they cannot be sent to Jamaica because of fears that jail conditions in the country would allow a successful challenge under human rights law.
Jamaica is third highest in the list of foreign countries with nationals serving prison sentences in the UK.
Almost 70% of the Jamaicans in prison in Britain are serving sentences for violence and drug offences.
The UK is contributing about 40% of the cost of building the planned jail, which would hold 1,500 people.
Mr Cameron, who had been at the United Nations in New York for talks on the fight against the Islamic State group, said: “It is absolutely right that foreign criminals who break our laws are properly punished but this shouldn’t be at the expense of the hard-working British taxpayer,” he said.
“That’s why this agreement is so important. It will mean Jamaican criminals are sent back home to serve their sentences, saving the British taxpayer millions of pounds but still ensuring justice is done.
“And it will help Jamaica by helping to provide a new prison, strengthening their criminal justice system.”
Mr Cameron, the first British prime minister to visit the island in 14 years, is also set to announce £300m of aid funding on infrastructure projects across the Caribbean, including roads, bridges and ports.
He said the regional infrastructure fund, which will be delivered in collaboration with the Caribbean Development Bank, would help support economic growth in the Caribbean.
Jamaica’s national security minister Peter Bunting welcomed the new investment and told Mr Cameron the quality of the country’s ageing prisons “has really been a sore point for us”.
Mr Cameron was greeted on his arrival at Kingston Airport by an honour guard and national anthems before he visited RFA Lyme Bay, the British ship currently on anti-drug smuggling and emergency relief duties in the Caribbean.
He is due to finish the day by having talks with Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller and attending a reception.
BBC political correspondent Carole Walker, who is travelling with Mr Cameron, says the PM has said he wants to improve a neglected relationship between the UK and Jamaica.
During his visit, Mr Cameron has also been pressed to consider apologising and making financial reparations to Caribbean countries for Britain’s role in the slave trade.
Ms Simpson Miller said she had raised the controversial question during one-to-one talks with the PM at her official residence in Kingston.
She said she told him that while she was “aware of the obvious sensitivities”, Jamaica was “involved in a process under the auspices of the Caribbean community to engage the UK on the matter”.
One politician, Mike Henry, has urged colleagues to turn their backs on Mr Cameron when he addresses the Jamaican parliament unless he puts the issue on his agenda.
Mr Cameron made no mention of the issue after the talks – but Number 10 said he had made clear to his opposite number that he “understood it was an issue for some people”.
However he “reiterated the long-standing position of the United Kingdom that we do not believe reparations is the right approach”.