In the past decade, the number of Europeans locked up for robbery has doubled, for violent crimes it has more than trebled and for sexual offences it has quadrupled.

A total of 2,696 were put behind bars last year - the equivalent of more than 50 per week - compared to the 1,321 jailed in 2002.

In 2002, judges jailed 196 violent offenders from European countries, 84 sex offenders and 132 robbers but the figures rose to 610, 335 and 262 respectively last year.

The number of EU citizens not from Britain handed indefinite sentences in courts in England and Wales has risen from 98 in 2002 to 367 in 2011, the figures show.

The statistics raise questions over the checks carried out on those entering Britain from other EU countries.

Free movement laws mean that EU nationals are often not scrutinised as thoroughly as other foreigners entering the country and offenders with a criminal past are only highlighted if police in their own country are hunting them.

The number of migrants coming to Britain has risen sharply since eight former Soviet bloc countries joined the EU in 2004.

The Government signed up to the EU prisoner transfer agreement which allows Britain to send foreign criminals home to serve their sentences, however, just 10 were deported between December and March.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "Every year we remove thousands of foreign criminals from the UK either at the end of their sentences or to serve the rest of their term back home.

"We're determined to remove more foreign lawbreakers - we already have prisoner transfer arrangements with over 100 countries and will continue to negotiate more.

"The EU prisoner transfer agreement came into force in December, allowing the compulsory transfer of EU prisoners without their consent."

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