- United States
The border control staff at the airports in United Kingdom has become more effective after the Public and Commercial Services Union called of its strike. These days when the Olympics have began and people are still pooling in at different airports in the UK, the immigration desks are almost fully manned and effectively working.
The queues that had become a nuisance to anyone associated with the airport and passport office staff, including the passengers arriving at the airport, has almost disappeared. The average time that a single passenger immigration processing took at Heathrow Airport used to be more than two hours max. Presently, the longest wait in the line recorded was 18 minutes, that too at terminal three. On other terminals, the average waiting time was calculated to be not more than 8 minutes, and even less for EU passengers.
These figures were also substantiated by the UK Prime Minister’s, David Cameron’s, wife Samantha Cameron. Mr. Cameron said that her wife was returning from a business trip to Italy and was waiting for her turn at the immigration desk. He said that she was called by the officer so promptly that she didn’t even get a chance to reach in her bag to get her passport out.
Although, the system seems to be quite effective and proper, officials fear that it could revert back to the previous condition if proper measures are not ensured.
Due to this foresight, the UK Home Office has decided to increase the number of staff members. UK’s immigration minister, Damian Green, has also assured that proper measures will be adopted in order to keep the conditions as they are. Green said that about 500 more staff members are being employed to keep the process streamlined throughout the Olympics. He said that special alertness has been directed to the staff in peak hours at all airports.
Still, the fears of those ghastly queues lurking to return to the airports are high among the officials.
The home affairs select committee has called on the administration to re-introduce the risk based checks at the country’s border.
It was a scheme that was abandoned last year due to unauthorized relaxations in check at the immigration desks by the officers. The MP’s are insisting that it would be wise to re-implement that program as it would help process large groups of low risked nature, for example groups of school children, at the immigration desks.
But the committee also warned the authorities that such check must not transform into queue based checks. They said that the discretion allowed to the officers on choosing which passenger to check thoroughly and which to check generally must not be used mainly to extinguish queues. This might bring back the inefficiencies that recently haunted the immigration offices due to the new inefficient staff neglecting complete checks just to decrease the number of queues as fast as possible.
The Labor chairman of the committee, Keith Vaz, said that the risk based checking should be immediately implemented at the immigration desks and that the border force must start ensuring that the passengers are accurately checked and processed and in the most timely manner, so as to avoid queuing up.
A spokesman for the Border Force said, “The action we have taken to cut queuing times and keep the border secure is already paying dividends and, despite the surge in Olympic visitors, queues at the Heathrow in the last week have been almost non-existent.”
Tags: Damian Green, David Cameron, Heathrow Airport, home affairs select committee, Keith Vaz, Public and Commercial Services Union, Samantha Cameron, United Kingdom