FOREIGN criminals sent to Bullwood Hall jail to be deported have been released early and allowed to stay in Britain, it has emerged.

The Ministry of Justice has confirmed eight foreign offenders were released early from the Hockley jail, as part of a new Government push to reduce prison overcrowding. They were also given £174 to help them restart their life.

Critics have slammed the move as making a mockery of the Government's claims the foreign-only prisons were a more efficients way of aiding the deportation process.

The prison is meant only for inmates who will be deported.

However, officials have bowed to EU and human rights laws which bar deportation of criminals to countries considered unsafe, or those who have established a family life in the UK.

Tory justice spokesman Nick Herbert said: "Ministers were claiming holding foreign nationals in dedicated prisons was a way to speed up their deportation.

"This was totally misleading. Not only has Brown failed to deport them as he promised, but we now learn he actually has a policy which allows some of them to be released before their sentences are complete."

Mark Francois, MP for Rayleigh, said: "Even though all experience shows prisoners released from prison leave the area quite quickly, and these people will have been taken to Hockley station to be put on a train, I am still not happy about this.

"Gordon Brown told us he wanted more foreign nationals deported and this shows the system is still prone to bureaucracy and legal wrangling.

"The Ministry of Justice, which runs the prisons, has to raise its game."

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice said: "Foreign national prisoners are eligible for end of custody licence, if the board of immigration agency has notified them on a decision not to deport.

"Prisoners released receive a certain amount of money, which covers them until they are allowed to claim benefits."