Friday 23 February 2018

UK Border Force chief: Four-hour queues during Olympics? So be it

Passengers arriving at Heathrow face lengthy waits at immigration desks. Photo: PA
Passengers arriving at Heathrow face lengthy waits at immigration desks. Photo: PA

Donna Bowater

THE head of the UK's Border Force, Brian Moore, said he was prepared for four-hour delays for visitors entering the country during the Olympics in the wake of chaos at Heathrow.

Concerns were raised after passengers faced lengthy waits at immigration desks from flights into the capital, leading many to complain about the long lines at Heathrow's Terminal 5.

The queues prompted questions over how the UK's ports would cope with the influx of spectators during the 2012 Games.

Mr Moore, the Border Force chief, said the agency would continue to deploy staff in the same way.

"The vast majority of passengers pass through immigration control quickly. Queues are caused by a number of factors, including incorrect flight manifests or early or late planes which result in bunching," he said.

"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."

Mr Moore added there were "well-rehearsed plans" in place and the agency was “fully prepared” for busy periods during the Olympics.

Asked how he would feel if there were four-hour queues to enter Britain during the Games, he said: “If that is necessary in light of the threats and risks that we face at that time, then so be it. We will not compromise on safety.”

At the weekend, it was reported that the Border Force planned to spend £2.5 million bringing back retired immigration officers to cope with the volume of traffic into the UK.

There were also reports last night of calls for airlines to fund improvements to border controls to ease the pressure on airports.

"There is a real problem and the problem has emerged over the last few months," Keith Vaz, chairman of Home Affairs Select Committee told BBC radio.

"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," Mr Vaz added.

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