Understanding the Differences between Deportation, Early Removal Scheme (ERS) and Prisoners Transfer (Repatriation)

Deportation, Early Removal Scheme (ERS) and Prisoner Transfer (Repatriation) are all methods of removing individuals from one country to another. Understanding the differences between these three types of removal can help individuals make informed decisions about their immigration and deportation status. Let’s explore each of these policies further to understand their differences.


Deportation is forcibly removing someone from the UK due to immigration law violations or criminal activity. It is a severe punishment with serious consequences for the individual and their family. Deportees are generally barred from returning to the UK for a minimum of 10 years.

In the UK, deportation orders are issued by the Home Office and enforced by Immigration Enforcement. The Home Office issues a notice of the decision to deport when they have come to the conclusion that an individual must leave their current country. This document includes the Home Office’s reasoning and justification for why they want to deport you.

There are various reasons why someone may be deported, including overstaying their visa, committing a crime, or being deemed a threat to national security. The removal process can be complex and lengthy, with multiple stages involved before an individual is removed from the UK.

Early Removal Scheme

The Early Removal Scheme is an option for foreign nationals serving a fixed-term prison sentence in the UK who are liable to be removed from the country. It provides a way for imprisoned foreign nationals to be released before completing their original sentence, solely for the purpose of removal or deportation from the United Kingdom.

According to the policy, any foreign national imprisoned in England or Wales must be assessed for possible removal from the country. This scheme applies to all foreign nationals residing in the UK, regardless of nationality or origin, including those from EEA and non-EEA countries.

The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) is the governing body in charge of the scheme, also overseen by several other operational areas. These include:

  • Home Office Immigration Enforcement
  • HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS)
  • HMPPS Public Protection Casework Section (PPCS)


Repatriation is returning a person, usually a prisoner, to their country of origin or citizenship. It is also known as prisoner transfer and is typically used to refer to the transfer of individuals who have been convicted of crimes in the UK and are being returned to their home country for incarceration or other forms of punishment.

Prisoner transfers involve mutually agreed-upon terms between two countries under pre-determined regulations protecting individual rights. Non-UK citizens convicted of a crime in the UK who prefer serving their sentence in their homeland are typically eligible for this processing.

Final Thoughts

It is important to understand the differences between deportation, Early Removal Scheme (ERS) and Prisoners Transfer (Repatriation).

Deportation is a form of removal from the UK that is involuntary and imposed by the Home Office. Early Removal Scheme (ERS) is a voluntary scheme for people to return to their country of origin as an alternative to deportation. Prisoner Transfer (Repatriation) is a voluntary scheme for prisoners to transfer from a foreign prison to a prison in their home country.

All of these schemes have different requirements, eligibility criteria and implications for those who are affected. Knowing the various schemes available when approaching the Home Office to facilitate your return is important.

Difference Between Voluntary Deportation and Repatriation


Voluntary deportation and repatriation are two processes that involve the removal of people from one country to another. Although they may seem similar, there are important differences between voluntary deportation and repatriation.

How Voluntary Deportation Works

Voluntary deportation is the process of returning to one’s home country by choice. It enables people who do not have any legal right to stay in the UK and who would otherwise face enforced removal from the country to leave voluntarily.

The Home Office allows people with no lawful basis for their presence in the UK to return home voluntarily rather than face detention or removal proceedings. To be eligible for voluntary departure, an individual must meet certain criteria and enter into a formal agreement with the Home Office that they will leave within a specified timeframe and not return until they have permission.

To apply for voluntary deportation, individuals must contact the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) team at their nearest Home Office reporting centre. They will then be interviewed by an NRM advisor who will assess their eligibility and, if suitable, discuss the voluntary deportation process in more detail.

Once it is agreed that a person can apply for voluntary deportation, they must sign a Voluntary Departure Agreement (VDA), which sets out the terms of their departure. This includes agreeing to leave the UK within a specific timeframe, not returning until permission, and paying any outstanding fines or costs associated with their removal from the UK.

Once all the relevant agreements are signed and payment made, individuals are given 14 days to arrange travel to their home country and leave the UK voluntarily. They may also be offered assistance with arranging transportation if necessary.

How Repatriation Works

Repatriation is returning an individual, such as a refugee or a displaced person, to their homeland. Repatriation is usually voluntary and may be facilitated by UNHCR or other organizations. The process ensures that any necessary assistance is provided to ensure the person reaches their country safely. This includes reintegration support, medical care, and other services, such as bearing the financial costs of travelling.

The UK Immigration Rules define the criteria that must be met for an individual to be lawfully removed from the country or returned voluntarily under a scheme such as Voluntary Returns Service (VRS). These include addressing any necessary protection or human rights concerns before departure.

Repatriation can also occur through resettlement programs, where refugees are given permanent residence in another country. This is often done when returning home is not possible due to conflict or other conditions in their homeland. The UNHCR works with governments and other organizations to provide safe and dignified returns for those who wish to return home but cannot do so safely.

Types of Repatriations

There are several types of repatriation, each with its specific requirements:

Medical Repatriation

Medical repatriation is the process of returning a patient to their country of origin for medical treatment when such treatment is not available or affordable for them in the UK. Charities or NGOs often provide medical repatriation services, offering assistance to individuals who wish to receive healthcare back home but lack the financial means.

Sentence Transfer

Sentence transfer is the transfer of a prisoner from one country to another so that they can serve their sentence in the place where they committed the offense. Sentence transfers are often done with the consent of both countries and take place under pre-agreed conditions that preserve the individual’s rights. This process is usually only available for those convicted in the UK and who wish to spend their sentence in their home country.

Refugee Repatriation

Refugee repatriation is the process of returning a refugee to their homeland. The UNHCR works with governments and other organizations to provide safe and voluntary returns for refugees when possible. This includes providing reintegration support, legal assistance, medical care, and other services to ensure a successful transition back home.

Final Thoughts

Voluntary deportation and repatriation are two distinct processes with different implications for individuals. Voluntary deportation is a process by which an individual can leave the UK after signing a voluntary departure agreement, while repatriation is the process of returning an individual to their homeland. Repatriation may be facilitated by UNHCR or other organizations and includes providing assistance such as medical care and financial support for the individual’s journey.