LONDON: British Home Secretary Priti Patel has appointed the man behind Australia’s controversial offshoring asylum policy to review Britain’s Border Force.
Alexander Downer’s role will include evaluating the British response to small boat crossings of the English Channel.
London has repeatedly said it is considering using offshore detention centers to process inbound immigrants and asylum-seekers, but all potential host countries have so far publicly ruled out their involvement in the plan.
According to the Home Office, Downer, who previously served as Australia’s minister for foreign affairs, has been appointed as an “independent reviewer” of Border Force.
A press release by the Home Office highlighted his “wealth of relevant experience” and leading role in negotiating Australia’s “Pacific solution,” which saw asylum-seekers held offshore in Papua New Guinea while their claims were processed.
A report by Amnesty International condemned Australia’s offshoring policy, saying it amounted to indefinite detention “in conditions which may be considered degrading or inhumane.”
Earlier this month, a number of peers from the UK’s House of Lords slammed Patel’s offshoring plan, pointing to the exorbitant costs and human rights issues at play in holding people in countries with less stringent laws and enforcement than the UK.
Downer has also been vocal in his support for “push-backs” at sea, which would see border forces physically preventing small boats from entering British waters.
These have been widely condemned and the Royal Navy said it would refuse to carry out such a command if one were made.
“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,” Downer wrote in a Daily Mail column.
In a statement, he said: “I am delighted that the home secretary has asked me to lead an independent review of Border Force, to ensure the UK’s border is protected from the changing threats of today, and prepared for future challenges.
“As an independent reviewer, I plan to lead a review that is robust, evidence-based and outcome-orientated.”