Following recent delays the UK Border Force is recruiting an additional 70 staff at Heathrow Airport to deal with long queues, Immigration Minister Damian Green has told MPs.
He said recruitment for new staff at Terminal 2, due to open in 2014, was being brought forward so they would be available for the post-Olympic UK traveller and student arrival period.
A post-Games rush is expected when tens of thousands of overseas students arrive in the UK for the new academic year.
Millions of UK tourists arrive at London’s Heathrow airport each month, even without the Olympics.
Mr Green was giving evidence to the Home Affairs Committee on 15 May 2012, as part of its inquiry into the work of the UK Border Agency and Border Force.
MPs focused on recent reports of long queues at passport control in Heathrow and Stansted airports, with passengers saying they have been delayed by several hours.
Mr Green told the committee the delays were not acceptable.
He said the new border control room at Heathrow would be a “considerable step forward”.
It will mobilise teams of redeployed border staff at terminals where queues may be beginning to build up.
‘Damaging for UK business’
The committee also heard evidence from representatives from BAA, BA and Virgin, who told MPs that the queue situation had steadily deteriorated over the past two years, and was not a recent phenomenon.
They said there was a plethora of reasons for the delays; but Paul O’Connor, from the Public and Commercial Services Union, later contested this, arguing that it was due to staff shortages caused by public spending cuts.
The airline representatives said the mobile teams of border staff deployed at Heathrow had improved helped to improve immigration queues.
But they said the key was to prevent queues from building up in the first place, which could be done by ensuring the right number of border control desks are manned at the right time of day.
They said passengers found it very frustrating to see unmanned gates during peak times.
Colin Matthews, chief executive of BAA, warned that lengthy queues were damaging to the country’s reputation as those experience the delays could be put off from coming to do business.
When Mr Green was asked about this by the committee chair, he said it was “a worry” for the government.
The minister also defended plans to abolish the right of appeal in the immigration system, saying it was an “anomaly” in the system that was expensive to the taxpayer.
Appearing as the final witness, UKBA chief executive Rob Whiteman endorsed the home secretary’s decision to split the functions of the agency and the UK Border Force.
The force, the section of the agency that manages entry to the UK, is to become a separate law-enforcement body reporting directly to the Home Office, while the UKBA will be solely responsible for immigration policy work. Source: BBC Democracy Live.
If you need any immigration advice or help with Sponsorship or Work Permits, Visa, ILR/Settlement, Citizenship, dependant visa or an appeal against a refusal please email: