Border Force chaos spreads to Eurotunnel's Calais terminal
THE chaos which has engulfed the Border Force has spread to Eurotunnel’s terminal at Coquelles, outside Calais in northern France.
Motorists hoping to cross the Channel are missing their shuttle services are having to wait up to an hour to clear British control posts.
At its worst the queues are backing up onto the French motorway network, which in turn has caused problems with the police in France.
Damian Green, the immigration minister, visited Coquelles earlier this year. But despite being told of the delays, according to Eurotunnel, no action has been taken.
There are 11 Border Force control booths at Coquelles, where motorists complete British immigration formalities, before driving onto the train.
However according to Eurotunnel it is rare for all the booths to be manned.
Yesterday the Government announced the deployment of extra border staff are to be deployed to tackle the immigration crisis after the Home Secretary was hauled in by the Prime Minister to explain the "unacceptable queues”.
Mr Green said that up to 80 back office staff would be made available to provide reinforcements at Heathrow airport just hours after Theresa May was called in by David Cameron.
In many cases they will form part of rapid deployment "hit squads" who can be sent at short notice to anywhere in the airport as queues build up.
But the change of heart was dismissed by Mark Serwotka, the general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union.
"Drafting in staff from other areas of an already overstretched agency is like putting a sticking plaster on a serious injury, it will do nothing to stop the inevitable from happening.”
The new staff will be available immediately and will work throughout the summer, Mr Green, who on Monday downplayed the immigration problems, said.
“The problem is that people, at certain times, on certain days, have to wait too long. We're addressing that problem.
"Border Force need to change the way they operate, we need to work better with the operator BAA and with the airlines, and, as of today, we are instituting some changes as the summer starts.”
Other changes will see an overhaul of the shift system, which will enable immigration staff to work longer hours during the summer when airports are busier and shorter shifts during quieter parts of the year.
The readiness of the Government to finally admit that action was needed was welcomed by a spokesman for BAA, which operates Heathrow.
We are encouraged by the announcement of additional border resources for Heathrow and welcome the new sense of urgency being shown by the Government to tackle this problem.”
Earlier in the day Mr Green was involved in an ill tempered exchange with Willie Walsh, the chief executive of the International Airlines Group, which owns British Airways.
The two men clashed over the length of time passengers were being expected to wait with the minister saying the longest delay was only 90 minutes, while Mr Walsh put the time at two and a half hours.
“I believe what we are doing is taking significant steps to ensure that the Border Force has more flexibility to ensure that we have the right people in the right place at the right time,” Mr Green told BBC Radio 4.
This was ridiculed by Mr Walsh. “Anybody who has gone through an airport in recent times has experienced the unacceptable poor standards that the Border Force has provided.
"The Government has tried to convince people that we don't have a crisis. The Government is misleading people. We have a crisis, it has been there for some time and we need urgent action."
Sir Keith Mills, deputy chairman of Games organiser Locog said the chaos plaguing the airport has already taken its toll on passengers arriving to do business connected to the London Olympics.
He said: "The damage is being done right now."
Sponsors, sports chiefs, business executives and major broadcasters were suffering the Heathrow hassle experience “every day”, he said.
Last night an influential business leader, wrote to Mr Green to voice fears that the Heathrow could face serious problems after the summer.
Baroness Valentine told the minister: A realistically prioritised and appropriately resourced Border Force is key to delivering that.
“We believe that as a matter of urgency the Government needs a strategy to meet both the immediate challenges at Heathrow and the long term needs of passengers beyond the Olympic Games this summer.”