UK immigration insider predicts more queues at Heathrow

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10 September 2012


An insider at the UK Border Force has told The Daily Star newspaper that long delays are likely at Heathrow Airport from the beginning of October 2012. During the Olympics and Paralympics, extra staff were drafted in from the Ministry of Defence to help man the passport control desks but these workers will return to their regular duties at the end of September 2012, leaving a shortage of staff.

The UK Border Force is responsible for manning frontline operations at air, rail and sea ports. It was separated from the UK Border Agency (UKBA) in March 2012 and has since been run by the former Chief Constable of the Wiltshire Police, Brian Moore. It has recently been running a recruitment campaign to find 70 new passport control officers for Heathrow. However, the insider told The Daily Star that the process has been hampered by an absurd and irrelevant recruitment process administered by Capita Recruitment. Many former officers who have been made redundant applied for the posts but were rejected by Capita. Capita required applicants to complete an online questionnaire which, the insider said, contained a series of irrelevant questions. Experienced officers were therefore rejected. People with no relevant experience are being employed instead, according to the insider.

A senior UK Border Force officer told The Daily Star 'at a time when Britain's borders are under increasing pressure, to reject applications from experienced immigration officers based on a flawed online test in favour of people with little or no experience of the frontline makes no sense.'

When the new staff are appointed, because they have no experience, they will not be able to work in the frontline for nine months while they are being trained. This will leave continuing staff shortages and will cause delays until they are able to take up their duties.

A UK Border Force spokesman said 'We have tried and tested plans in place to deal with busy periods. However, there was a furore in April 2012 when it was revealed that passengers at Heathrow were routinely waiting over two and a half hours to clear passport control with some passengers waiting for four hours.

The spokesman continued 'We will be keeping some contingency staff in place until the new recruits are on board.'

A spokesman for the Public and Commercial Services Union said 'The government needs to learn the lesson of the last 18 months. We have always argued that the Home Office and the UKBA shouldn't be cutting so many experienced jobs. The whole process has been a farce.'

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