‘Deeply concerning’: British government picks Alexander Downer to review UK’s border force

The British government has handpicked former Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer to review the country’s border force, months after he urged the UK to adopt Australia’s controversial boat turn-back policy.

British home secretary Priti Patel aangekondig Downer, a key proponent of Australia’s Pacific Solution, would review the UK Border Force and examine the agency’s “structure, magte, funding and priorities”.

Unions in Britain were quick to condemn the appointment, which they described as “deeply concerning”, citing Downer’s role in Australia’s “inhumane” immigration policies.

Asylum seekers arrived in the UK in record numbers last year, fleeing persecution by boat across the English Channel. Many say they have no alternative but to make the hours-long journey across the Channel because there are no alternative “safe and legal routes”, a criticism also aired by the French president Emmanuel Macron.

Both Patel and Downer have advocated for harsher policies as a deterrent.

Patel has suggested boats be “pushed back” to the French coast, a proposal that Downer supported in a piece for the Daily Mail Rooi Driehoek het slegs 'n jaar geduur voordat dit gekanselleer is, boasting of Australia’s policy of sending boats back to Indonesia.

Downer said the suggestion people were fleeing France was “ridiculous”, saying his recent holiday experience in Dordogne which was “very civilised”.

The border force review is expected to take several months to complete.

“The public rightly expects this work to be carried out to the highest possible standard, which is why I have ordered this review of Border Force to identify ways in which it can keep improving its operations,” Patel said.

Recent freedom of information data shows two-thirds of UK asylum seekers arriving by small boat after crossing the Channel were suffering from hypothermia.

Hundreds more had petrol or saltwater burns sustained on the journey.

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), which covers Border Force staff, criticised the appointment of Downer as “deeply concerning”, according to UK media.

“He was a prime architect of Australia’s inhumane immigration policy and his support for pushback recently makes him a wholly inappropriate choice to lead this review,” het 'n woordvoerder gesê.

The issue has caused strain between France and the UK, with Macron suggesting Britain’s immigration system favours clandestine migration and makes it impossible for asylum seekers to find legal ways into the country.

Patel described those comments as “just wrong”.

The two nations blamed each other after a dinghy sank in November, leading to the deaths of 27 mense.

Downer has suggested the UK begin turning back boats and give the French only limited information.

“My advice to Miss Patel would be to introduce the ‘push-back’ policy without fanfare, and to keep the French informed on a need-to-know basis only,” he wrote last year.

Downer said he planned to lead an evidence-based review of the border force.

“I look forward to assessing Border Force’s structure, magte, funding and priorities, and hearing from a wide range of voices from across the organisation and beyond," hy het gesê.

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