Visitors arriving into London’s Heathrow Airport over the summer won’t suffer long queues, but they will be met by border staff with only basic training and little immigration experience, a watchdog’s report warned today.
John Vine, the chief inspector of borders and immigration, said extra staff drafted in during busy periods “appeared less confident” in processing passengers, and despite taking longer to get visitors through immigration asked “fewer probing questions”.
Some 500 staff who have left the business or have moved to other placements in the Border Force, UK Border Agency and Home Office have been brought back, ensuring immigration desks will be fully staffed.
After speaking to senior personnel at Terminals 3 and 4 in April this year, Mr Vine’s report claimed “some staff remained concerned about the potential risks of employing staff on the immigration control who had received only basic training and who had no immigration background/experience.”
There is also concern, he claimed, that such problems could continue after the Olympics if resources were “not sufficient” to deal with the ever increasing passenger numbers at Heathrow.
Immigration Minister Damian Green has been under pressure from Labour MPs to ensure that queues are kept to a minimum. Keith Vaz said he was “appalled” by hour-long waiting times earlier this week, while David Winnick said huge immigration lines could become a “national embarrassment”. The announcement of a two-tier system allowing passengers from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan to go to separate desks to other non-EU visitors also met with scorn.
A Border Force spokesperson said: “John Vine acknowledges the positive addition of hundreds of extra staff deployed to meet demand, the creation of a central control room to manage resources and on-going recruitment of more border officers.”