Heathrow's queues will be cut by 'flying squads' of border staff, the immigration minister Damian Green said in the Commons yesterday. Cabin crew working out of UK airports, particularly Heathrow, will be aware of the queues that have formed at border control points in recent weeks. Non-EU nationals were waiting up to 90 minutes at Heathrow's Terminal 5 on Friday night, according to the BBC.
While the government has been quick to blame the weather, saying severe conditions had held up flights and caused the queues, customers and airport staff are saying that cuts to jobs in the UK Border Agency could be the problem. Other factors include rising passenger numbers, Home Secretary Theresa May's scrapping of the selective ‘risk-based’ approach to checking passports, and problems with new technology in iris fast track and e-gates.
spokesperson said today: "Immigration is a matter for the Home Office. Immigration waiting times during peak periods at Heathrow recently have been unacceptable and we have called on the Home Office to address the problem as a matter of urgency. There isn’t a trade-off between strong border security and a good passenger experience – the Home Office should be delivering both."
The flying squads will ensure all immigration desks are properly staff during the summer rush at airports, Damian Green told MPS in an emergency Commons statement yesterday. However shadow immigration minister Chris Bryant said the problem was down to a lack of resources and the government was "running out of alibis".
But Mr Green said: "Border Force will ensure that all immigration desks at Heathrow and other key ports and airports in the South East are fully staffed during peak periods over the summer. A contingency force of appropriately trained staff will be sent to the border to provide extra help to ensure passengers are processed as quickly as possible. Border security is Britain's first line of defence. It cannot and will not be compromised."
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Photo by UK Home Office