Extra border staff for Olympics aftermath airport rush

Damian Green says queue levels at London's Heathrow and Stansted airports were "not acceptable"

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The government will bring forward the recruitment of 70 border staff to prevent lengthy queues at Heathrow Airport following the Olympics.

Immigration minister Damian Green said the posts had been due to start when Terminal 2 reopens in 2014.

But they will now be in place for a post-Games rush, expected when tens of thousands of students arrive in the UK ahead of the new academic year.

Some 480 extra UK Border Force staff will be on duty for the Olympics.

However, following this period, the additional manpower will go, leading to concerns that queues at Heathrow could reach unacceptable levels.

In recent months, there have been complaints about non-EU passport holders having to regularly wait more than two hours to get through immigration checks at the airport.

'Frustrating'

Mr Green told the Commons Home Affairs Committee: "Terminal 2 is reopening in 2014. Seventy extra people will be working there. We are recruiting them to be working from the immediate post-Olympics."

Mr Green said 16 mobile teams of 10 people were now employed at Heathrow to ensure staffing at immigration checks could be better focused on need.

The committee's chairman, Labour MP Keith Vaz, criticised the level of queues there and at Stansted Airport.

He complained that, on a recent trip, lines of passengers returning to the UK had had to stand in lines all the way back to the aircraft.

The committee was told that the lengths of these queues could not be measured accurately, as current data looks only at the times spent waiting in the immigration hall.

During an evidence session with representatives of airlines, Corneel Koster, director of safety and security at Virgin Atlantic, said: "There's nothing as frustrating as queuing up when you see desks unmanned."

He added that an apparent undermanning at checks was "the issue" for most passengers having to endure long waits.

During his appearance, Mr Green asked whether, during the Olympics, in July and August, the extra staff brought in to Heathrow would mean a lessening of staffing levels on Eurostar.

Mr Green said: "We are conscious that the summer is a busy period for Eurostar and Eurotunnel. We are conscious that this isn't just about Heathrow but other ports as well.

"The staffing levels are designed for all ports, not just Heathrow and Stansted."

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