Home Secretary orders ‘wide-ranging’ review of Border Force

Priti Patel has called in a former Australian government minister to oversee the assessment.

17 February 2022

The Home Secretary has ordered the first review of Border Force in more than a decade.

Priti Patel has called in Alexander Downer, the ex-Australian High Commissioner to the UK, to oversee the review which began on Thursday and will scrutinise all areas of the agency’s work including illegal migration, customs and national security.

Mr Downer, a former Australian minister for foreign affairs, is reported to have played a key role in the country’s policy of turning boats carrying asylum seekers at sea away from its coastline.

Alexander Downer
Alexander Downer (Aaron Chown/PA)

This is similar to plans Ms Patel has attempted to introduce in the UK, prompting criticism from campaigners and threats of legal action.

The “wide-ranging, independent review” is the first of its kind since Border Force was established.

It will assess the agency’s “structure, powers, funding and priorities” to make sure it can “keep pace with rapidly evolving threats and continue to protect the border, maintain security and prevent illegal migration”, the Home Office said.

The department added the move will “ensure the UK Government is prepared for future challenges at the border, by identifying change and improvements needed across Border Force’s work on illegal migration, customs and national security to help keep the UK safe, secure and prosperous”.

Priti Patel
Priti Patel (Steve Parsons/PA)

Ms Patel said Border Force officers work “tirelessly to protect our borders at 140 sea and air ports right across the UK”, adding that since its inception in 2011 its “remit has grown to meet the changing border threats we face, and in recent years has supported delivery of the Government’s Brexit commitments and Covid-19 measures”.

She added: “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.”

Mr Downer said his review will be “robust, evidence-based and outcome-orientated”, adding: “I look forward to assessing Border Force’s structure, powers, funding and priorities, and hearing from a wide range of voices from across the organisation and beyond.”

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