21 May 2012

Backroom staff to man UK immigration desks

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In an effort to boost UK immigration staff numbers in times of peak demand during the Olympic Games, the Government has confirmed administrative staff such as filing clerks and receptionists will be among hundreds of civil servants drafted in to help man border controls.

UK visa

The Home Office has confirmed 700 civil service volunteers will be drafted in to make up UK immigration staff numbers.

With record numbers of passengers expected at UK immigration border control this summer during the London Olympics and reports of extensive delays in arrivals halls, a debate over the Government's cuts to border staff has raged on regarding whether there will be enough staff during the Games.

In an effort to combat this, the Home Office has confirmed that 700 civil service volunteers will be drafted in to make up numbers, at a cost of £250 a day per staff member.

Among the civil service volunteers are relatively low level backroom staff including filing clerks and receptionists who will receive just three days training in how to spot suspicious passengers and UK visa forgeries.

The announcement has already received significant criticism; Keith Vaz, chair of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee said he was "very concerned".

"We are already at a heightened terror alert, and terrorists would like to launch attacks during events like the Olympics," said Mr Vaz. "Also, illegal immigrants are devising evermore sophisticated ways to enter the country.

We need highly-skilled people to man passport desks, not poorly-trained volunteers."

Mr Vaz's concerns were echoed by the Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper:

"The Government have had years to plan for the Olympics and to train up the necessary staff needed. How on Earth can Ministers be in the last minute rush and shambles, what have they been doing for the last two years?

"Drafting in poorly trained staff at the last minute to over the entire summer pressures and Olympics is taking risks with our security and with the country's reputation at a time when the whole world's eyes will be on us," said Ms Cooper.

A spokesperson for the UK Border Force however moved to quell concerns over untrained staff:

"We will not compromise the safety of the border and are full prepared for the busy Olympic period. We will be implementing our well rehearsed plans, including a contingency pool of staff who will have all the necessary training to maintain border security."

The UK Visa Bureau is an independent immigration consultancy specialising in helping people prepare for their UK Ancestry Visa application.

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