UK’s Border Force approach ineffective in tackling illegal Channel crossings: review
‘Border Force seems to be less than the sum of its parts with significant systemic challenges’ Migrants are seen on the UK Border Force rubber dinghy, after they were picked up at sea while attempting to cross the English Channel, and brought to the Marina in Dover, southeast England, on June 16, 2022. (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)
The UK’s Border Force has been “ineffective” in tackling illegal Channel crossings by migrants, with the agency’s attention diverted away from the smuggling of drugs and firearms, an independent review said.
The Border Force maritime command, comprising 230 staff and 30 vessels, has been drawn into a challenge that it is ill-equipped to deal with, the review led by former Australian immigration minister Alexander Downer found.
It said despite examples of excellence and a dedicated workforce, the Border Force seems to be less than the sum of its parts with significant systemic challenges.
“To sustain the Border Force operation . . . officers from elsewhere are being drafted into the maritime command, which detracts from other important activities,” the review commissioned by home secretary Priti Patel said.
According to it, Border Force maritime should not be providing an ongoing search and rescue function in the English Channel as its vessels are not appropriate for the task.
“Vessels that are better suited to the task should be contracted for and placed under the command and control of either the Coast Guard or Royal Navy so that Border Force are not used as the primary resource for such operations,” the review said.
It also recommended that turnaround tactics should be available to deter migrants from crossing the channel.
“Taking any given tactic off the table is unhelpful where one of the desired outcomes is a deterrent effect. All legal and operationally feasible options should be on the table. The government should maintain the option of turnaround tactics when it is safe and legal to do so. Contracted vessels and specialist crews may be more effective in conducting these challenging operations.”
Significantly, Downer said people who illegally entered the UK should be moved “to a third country rapidly” for assessment under the UN Convention and other relevant legislation.
“The rapid movement of people that have entered the UK illegally to a third country reduces the risk of the removal process being frustrated. The eligibility for removal should embrace all cohorts of people who enter the UK illegally,” he said.
Citing Australia’s experience, he said the pace at which people are moved, along with avoiding a running commentary on numbers, is useful in achieving success.
“The discussion of numbers at various stages of operational implementation will potentially look like the odds are still in favour of attempting dangerous, illegal migration journeys and the deterrent effect is lost”, he said.
Diplomatic efforts to resolve this problem jointly with France would be a significant contribution to a sustainable solution, the report said.