Is the UK Border Force Fit for Purpose? A Discussion with The Hon. Alexander Downer

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Is the UK Border Force Fit for Purpose? A Discussion with The Hon. Alexander Downer

5th September 2022 @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm

The UK Border Force has come under fire in light of the increasing number of Channel crossings made by migrants and the measures around the detention of those seeking asylum. The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, has faced criticism on what some see as her indecisiveness in acting on information that would ease the pressure on the Border Force and provide a more efficient service that would allow the Border Force to act better in the interests of national security.

In order to discuss this situation and to ascertain the possibilities for Border Force reform, The Henry Jackson Society is pleased to welcome The Hon. Alexander J G Downer AC. Mr Downer is the author of the recent independent review of Border Force, commissioned by the Home Secretary and published in July 2022. The review presented findings on the capability of the Force to deal with present pressures on the UK border and offered advice on the training, structure, oversight, leadership and external partnership among other suggestions. Mr Downer will talk about his review and the state of the UK Border Force.


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The Hon. Alexander J G Downer AC was a Member of the Australian Parliament for Mayo for over twenty years. He led the Australian Liberal Party in 1994–95 and is the longest serving Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs (1996–2007). Mr Downer was also Australia’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom (2014–18).

Mr Downer was the Executive Director of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and the United Nations Secretary General’s Special Adviser on Cyprus, in which he worked on peace talks between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots. He is currently Executive Chair of the International School for Government at King’s College London, Chairman of the Trustees at Policy Exchange, and a Trustee of the International Crisis Group.



Dr Stepan Stepanenko received his BA (Hons) and MA by research from the University of York and went on to complete a PhD at Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes of Paris Sciences et Lettres with a focus on Ukraine. In his academic career Stepan presented at a multitude of academic conferences and authored publications in peer reviewed journals, individually and in collaboration. He is also currently an Associate Member of the CNRS UMR 8167.

In British politics, Stepan has worked with the Conservative Party, running for election in the London Borough of Barnet in 2014 and co-founding the Conservative Friends of Ukraine in 2021. He continues to work on cross party humanitarian projects with a focus on Ukraine.






The Henry Jackson Society was pleased to welcome the Hon. Alexander Downer AC to hold a discussion on the UK Border Force and his review commissioned by Priti Patel on its efficiency and effectiveness. Dr Stepan Stepanenko began the conversation by introducing the speaker. The Hon. Alexander Downer AC highlighted the structural problems with the Force that limit the efficacy of workers who he praised and considered of high quality. He argued the need to restructure their training, their recruitment practices, and to address issues with procurement, particularly of technology. The Hon. Alexander Downer AC also commended the Home Office and HMRC for how well they’ve handled the post-Brexit arrangements with containers passing customs. He highlighted his suggestions to deal with the recent increase in Channel crossings, emphasising the need to discourage the people-smuggling trade. The Hon. Alexander Downer and Dr Stepanenko discussed the relationship between business and the Border Force and how co-operation can be improved to help ease queuing problems in airports.  Finally, the Hon. Alexander Downer AC answered questions on the Rwanda asylum-seeker policy, the benefits of detection technology, and the Australian detention centres.





Millbank Tower, 21-24 Millbank, London, England, SW1P 4QP
21-24 Millbank
Westminster, SW1P 4QP United Kingdom


The Hon. Alexander J G Downer AC


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