Heathrow queues: Border Force 'ready' for Olympics


Brian Moore, head of the UK Border Force, defended his staff's actions

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The UK Border Force says it is "fully prepared to manage busy periods" such as the Olympics despite criticism over recent delays at Heathrow Airport.

Border Force chief Brian Moore said security would not be compromised but staff would be "implementing our well-rehearsed plans" in July and August.

MPs have said the UK's image was being tarnished and called on Immigration Minister Damian Green to explain.

Non-EU passengers have spoken of three-hour queues at Heathrow Terminal 5.

The longest delays were reportedly seen at passport control on Wednesday, but queues have also been seen over the past month, with some UK and other European Economic Area passengers said to have experienced waits of up to an hour - more than double the 25-minute "service standards" target set by the Home Office.

In March, following revelations that hundreds of thousands of people were let into the country without appropriate checks, the home secretary announced that the UK Border Force would be split away from the UK Border Agency and become a separate entity.

But Lucy Moreton from the Immigration Services Union said there were now too few staff on duty.

"There simply is no way to deliver the 100% secure border that we are required to deliver with the number of staff we have left," she said.

Mr Moore told the BBC News Channel the Border Force aimed to keep disruption to a minimum but "would not compromise on the safety and security of the UK".

"Overwhelmingly we are doing a good job on balancing getting people through whilst making sure the border remains secure," he said.

Mr Moore said: "The vast majority of passengers pass through immigration control quickly.

Passenger Leo Lourdes said Friday's queue was the longest queue he had ever seen

"Queues are caused by a number of factors, including incorrect flight manifests or early or late planes which result in bunching.

"The important factor is to have staff that are flexibly deployed in the right numbers at the right times and this is what we always try to do."

MPs on the Home Affairs Select Committee say they plan to question the immigration minister about the issues in May.

Committee chairman Mr Vaz said: "If you arrive at Heathrow and you see half the kiosks empty and you are waiting for three hours, that's simply not acceptable."

Earlier, the Labour MP told BBC Radio 4's Today programme, a "real problem" of delays at immigration controls had emerged in recent months.

"I'm not saying we should abandon checks, but it's a choice for the government - you either look at the way you deal with people when they arrive at Heathrow or you recruit more staff.

"This is not just about the Olympics, this is about what happens before and after, it's about Heathrow as a world-class airport and it's about our reputation, and we need to make sure we get it sorted."

Keith Vaz MP: "This needs to be dealt with here and now, not in July"

BAA said queues at Heathrow Airport passport control on Friday evening cleared by the morning.

But it has called on the Home Office to "address the problem as a matter of urgency" and has described the queuing seen at airport immigration control as "unacceptable".

A BAA spokeswoman said: "There isn't a trade-off between strong border security and a good passenger experience. The Home Office should be delivering both."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 571.

    On the immigration at heathrow the reporter says that it does not happen anywhere else in the world it does it took us 2 1/2 hours to get through Miami airport

  • rate this

    Comment number 570.

    Throughout the world own nationals do not queue.
    Only in the UK where we are treated as Foreign nationals sorry Europeans do we have to put up with a wait to get home.
    Simple 3 queues
    1) Uk Passport Holders
    2) EU Passport holders
    3) Other Passport holders

    Apply risk profiling to all queues.

  • rate this

    Comment number 569.

    I was under the impression racial profiling was not being done here in the UK?

  • rate this

    Comment number 568.

    Read abt 300+ of the comments now ..
    Common thread -- nothing to do with proper security checking -- its to do with a complete lack of staff at busy times.
    As a regular traveller through LHR for 20+ years -- this is NOT new-- just worse than ever.
    I almost feel a bit sorry for the frontline staff - its not their fault.. but they cop all the abuse no doubt.
    UK citizens --scream and shout - fix it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 567.

    It is not just Moore who is incompetent, but the government doesn't care about the damage done to the tourism industry. Reviewing arrival statistics and planning staffing accordingly seems beyond them. What about the many experienced retired staff or training temporaries for peak periods? Increase the charges reduce the service that's the credo. More arrivals means more staff - get it Moore???

  • rate this

    Comment number 566.

    Welcome to the world of being an English football supporter abroad with 2 passport control desks for thousands of fans. I thought you are not permitted use of mobiles in the immigration halls. Don't we all enjoy queuing? This is an accurate impression of the country - you are going to be caught in congestion ;-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 565.

    This is actually a good thing. If logistics cause the Olympics to become a shambles, the Tories won't hear the end of it. They'll be responsible for turning this country into a joke. They'll never be elected again. It'll be the worst PR ever. Lead by a PM who made a career in PR! You can't make this stuff up!

  • rate this

    Comment number 564.

    What a joke ! They can't even handle passport control at Heathrow airport BEFORE the Olympics has even started.
    Yet ANOTHER failure by the utterly useless Theresa May ! Just how many times does she have to mess up before we fire her ??!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 563.

    This is one of the areas where "Self Service" will not work.

    Illegal immigrants and terrorists will always circumvent security measures, no matter how stringently they may be applied.

    On the other hand, I can not help but feel the Boarder Agencies are telling government "We told you so": because the BA numbers were cut yet the workload increased.

    Again government have put their feet in "it".

  • rate this

    Comment number 562.

    Border force ready for the olympics! They have their portable t.v.s` plugged in & are currently confiscating all flavours of crisps & fizzy drinks that are unopened and in date.Just like the police,they only seem to put in an appearance when there is a film crew in the vicinity.I`d wager Mr Moore couldn`t find his ass with both hands let alone stop undesireables entering the U.K.

  • rate this

    Comment number 561.

    Customer Relations Management in this country is the pits and it's costing us money. The company I work for has business partners/clients who refuse to come her because it's so time costly. For some, getting through customs takes longer than their actual flights. Time is money, don't people know this?

  • rate this

    Comment number 560.

    I arrived home on Friday night and took longer to get through my home country immigration than it takes me in the US or Russia or anywhere. I understand the security issues, but there were only the usual 6 (yes six) immigration officers for all 27 EU nations. In that respect terminal 5 is already 20 years out of date and a shocking introduction to the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 559.

    @558. pete21
    I am a regular bloke, not too rich, not too poor and definitely not famous. I have tickets for the Olympics and I can't wait. I don't want to be associated with people who say they are speaking for me when they don't. Speak for yourself and let me and my family get on and enjoy the Olympics. Or am I not allowed to?

  • rate this

    Comment number 558.

    we as a nation should boycott the Olympics as it is not for the likes of me or you,it is intended for the rich and famous,all we will get out of it is debt,and a mildewed legacy,
    I suggest we all block the air ports and trains while it's on in fact lets have a national strike,
    and sod heathrow
    come on brothers and sisters

  • rate this

    Comment number 557.

    I'm stunned by the stupidity of the general public and aghast at the naivety of ministers. How can we expect Border Officers to weed out and arrest undesirables (including our own British ones) passing the border, whilst at the same time cutting back the number of front line officers to record lows? There were only 8 out of 35 desks occupied in Heathrow the other day! And passenger figures rising

  • rate this

    Comment number 556.

    I've never rated our Border Control very highly. Unless of course someone is trying to bring in more cigs than permitted or a duty free Japanese camera!

  • rate this

    Comment number 555.

    "A separate terrorists and undesirables lane would solve all these problems"

    That's funny :) - good one!

  • rate this

    Comment number 554.

    536. GhostOfEnoch
    The only pro multicultural types are middle/upper class liberals who live in all white areas
    Nope. And I take offense to you soiling Powell's name. The man was a very smart intellectual and I doubt you fully understand him.

  • rate this

    Comment number 553.

    There is an underlying issue here of government cuts being blamed for these delays.

    Tax the rich so that we can speed up the queue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 552.

    I have read the comments objecting to the rigorous checks by the border agency
    And I get the impression that those objecting are either foreign or left wing benefit recipients or both.
    am I right ?
    I will be surprised if I'm not.


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