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UK Border Security Agency 'counter-productive' in dealing with asylum seekers in small boats

A member UK Border Force patrols at Heathrow Airport in London on July 16, 2019, part of Operation Limelight, a national multi-agency safeguarding operation at the UK border that focuses on harmful practices. - In collaboration with Border Force, specialist officers from the Met's Continuous Policing Improvement Command will be carrying out preventative and detection work in relation to inbound flights that have travelled from or via 'countries of prevalence' for forced marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM) and honour based abuse and breast ironing. (Photo by Daniel LEAL / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images)
A member UK Border Force patrols at Heathrow Airport in London on July 16, 2019 [DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images]

The UK's border security agency has likely been "counter-productive" in dealing with migrants and refugees' crossing the English Channel in small boats, a review has found.

In the independent review by former Australian immigration minister, Alexander Downer, he criticised the Border Force Maritime command's handling of the influx of small boats carrying migrants and refugees to Britain's shores, saying that the "overall approach to this problem over the past few years has been ineffective and possibly counter-productive in preventing these journeys."

The review stated that the organisation "has been drawn into a challenge that it is ill-equipped to deal with and yet all consuming", stressing that the resources currently needed are "not sustainable" and that its boats were not designed for conducting search and rescue operations. "The problem of illegal entry by small boats is not solvable in the Channel by Border Force", it stated, recommending, instead, that "a whole-system approach is needed".

Over the past year, the UK government and Border Force have been criticised for their mishandling of the asylum seekers making the perilous journey across the Channel to British shores, with the authorities often jailing those who are forced to steer the small boats and dinghies in an attempt to prosecute them.

Those who do safely make it across and are not arrested, are often placed into accommodation with poor conditions. More recently, asylum seekers who have travelled to the UK via the Channel on small boats have been subject to the British government's controversial plan to send them to Rwanda as a holding method. Following much outcry and a legal challenge, however, that programme has, so far, been stalled.

READ: UK High Commissioner to Rwanda warned against gov't's immigration plan 

Downer's review stated that his overall impression of the UK Border Force is that of "an organisation which is performing at a sub-optimal level". It added that the agency "appears to be struggling to get out of a cycle of crisis management, reacting to the last challenge and bracing itself for the next, regardless of how predictable the next challenge may be."

Although the force is "largely delivering what is required of it on a day-to-day basis, it does so by stretching its resources in an unsustainable and highly inefficient way", the review said.

Commissioned by British Home Secretary, Priti Patel, to assess the Border Force's ability to respond to future challenges, the review's conclusion of its "sub-optimal" and "unsustainable" performance comes at a time when it is also struggling to deal with a number of other issues such as organised crime, the trafficking of illegal drugs and firearms and the general protection of national security.

The review, and it's negative feedback, also further sheds light on Patel's failure to properly reform and restructure the Border Force and its agency, despite her taking a notoriously hard-line position on immigration and asylum seekers.

Downer's review – which made a series of recommendations, including better system leadership from the Home Office, better workforce planning and a greater understanding of the Force's mission – also comes at a time when the Home Office has announced plans to revolutionise methods for screening and processing migrants and refugees.

To that effect, a pilot study of a "contactless" digital border is set to take place within the next two years, which would reportedly enable anyone entering the country to pass through an automated border without needing to deal with Border Force officers.

READ: One politician is steering Britain to the far-right

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