“Horrendous” delays at immigration faced by passengers arriving into Heathrow airport have sparked concern that systems will not be able to cope with increased capacity during this year’s Olympic Games.
Last week, passengers were furious at having to wait in line for a reported two-and-a-half hours, with queues stretching well beyond the boundaries of the immigration hall. Passengers were further infuriated when they were met with disinterested staff and unattended passport control desks.
The company responsible for running Heathrow, BAA, argued that target times for passengers passing through immigration had not been hit. BAA target times are 45 minutes for non-EU passengers and 25 minutes for those with UK and EU passports.
In response to the furore, Labour warned the government that it must take charge of the “immediate crisis brewing less than four weeks before the Olympics”.
Chris Bryant MP, Labour’s Shadow Immigration Minister, said: “The Home Secretary and the Immigration Minister assured parliament that the full summer capacity would be in place by now.
“Theresa May has had long enough to plan for this summer. As we run up to the Olympics, Britain cannot afford either the queues the Government’s cuts produced this spring, or the lax security checks they ran last summer.”
More than 650,000 additional passengers are expected to travel through Heathrow during the Olympics, with the number of immigration workers rising from 453 to 535 from July 15.
Despite this, civil service unions have argued that if planned job cuts at Border Force go ahead staff numbers are set to drop from 8,500 in October 2010 to around 5,000 by 2015, potentially adding to queue times.
However, a Border Force spokesman refuted the idea that any disruption will be caused during the Games
“We are fully prepared for the busy Olympic period and will be implementing our well rehearsed plans,” he said.
“This includes staffing all immigration desks at key ports whenever necessary during the peak Olympic and Paralympic arrivals period.”