One line for the rich, another for the poor: minister's solution to border control crisis
Claims of discrimination over Green's plan for a two-tier system to end delays at Heathrow
Fast-track lanes for visitors from wealthy westernised countries are to be set up at Heathrow to reduce queues at Britain's biggest airport, the Immigration Minister said yesterday.
Damian Green's announcement of the two-tier border system for non-Europeans provoked accusations that the move discriminated against travellers from developing nations.
Separate passport desks for people from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan would be set up for new arrivals from countries whose citizens do not need a visa to visit Britain. The system will come into force at Heathrow, which has been plagued by delays in recent months, after the conclusion of the Olympic Games.
Mr Green told the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee that Britain could even ask the countries involved to set up reciprocal arrangements to fast-track UK travellers. "If it works, there will be a group of people who will have better experiences at Heathrow. That's beneficial in itself. If it has benefits for other British citizens as well, then absolutely we would be interested in pursuing that," Mr Green said.
But Habib Rahman, chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said: "There is no evidence to suggest visitors from other countries are less trustworthy than visitors from these countries. This is a list of wealthy countries with links to the UK. It is based on wealth and trade links and it discriminates against people from the developing world."
Mr Green said from Sunday, all immigration desks will be opened and staffed at airports in the South-east at busiest times as visitors begin to arrive for the Olympics. He said numbers landing at Heathrow could rise to more than 100,000 a day during the Games, but promised enough staff to cope with the influx.
The minister acknowledged the situation at Heathrow had "not been perfect", but insisted it was improving. He said the maximum wait at Terminal 4 during a visit yesterday had been 28 minutes.
Keith Vaz, the select committee's chairman, said he encountered delays of more than one hour on Monday, with half of immigration desks unstaffed. Mr Green disputed his claims, saying 80 per cent of desks had been staffed during Monday's morning peak, with a maximum waiting time of 54 minutes for non-European passengers.
* The UK Border Agency is bringing in a private firm to track down a backlog of at least 150,000 missing migrants who have been refused permission to stay in the UK, Mr Green disclosed.
The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations
The 50 Best spas
Iceland volcano: Travel agency has 'Volcano hotline' for dare-devil tourists who want to visit Bardarbunga if it erupts
Luton airport voted worst in Britain for second time running
Mystery as 'lake' appears in middle of Tunisian desert and becomes overnight tourist attraction
August Bank Holiday 2014: Five ways to make the most of it
- 1 Jeremy Clarkson 'sees no problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC
- 2 'Alien thigh bone' on Mars: Excitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
- 3 Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
- 4 London restaurant 34 creates champagne glass modelled on Kate Moss’ left breast
- 5 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Disgusting, frustrating, but intriguing: how the country really feels about its politicians
Bin bag full of cats' heads discovered near Manchester's Curry Mile
£6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...
£17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...
£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...
£23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...