David Cameron orders ministers to fix UK immigration queues

- Posted in United Kingdom by Visa Bureauon 01 May 2012

Conflicting reports have emerged in recent days of the amount of time EU and non-EU passengers are having to wait at the country's borders, particularly at Heathrow, to have their credentials checked by UK immigration officials.

Ministers have maintained until now that passenger reports and pictures of heavily crowded arrivals halls appearing on social networks have exaggerated the problem but have now been ordered by Mr Cameron to acknowledge the issue and concentrate on fixing it.

After making a statement to the Commons yesterday claiming the weather was having an adverse effect on arrivals, Immigration Minister Damian Green visited Heathrow this afternoon to view the current state of arrivals halls where he assured the Government was not playing down the problem.

Heathrow's owner BAA has urged the Home Office to address the problem as a 'matter of urgency' and labelling the wait for UK visa checks 'unacceptable'.

The Home Office has repeatedly stated security is their utmost intention although BAA disagrees with the situation: "There isn't a trade off between strong border security and a good passenger experience - the Home Office should be delivering both," they said in a statement.

Airline boss Willie Walsh claimed passengers were having to wait at least two hours; this claim was denied by Mr Green who said maximum wait time was closer to 90 minutes.

Mr Walsh told Radio 4 that CCTV arrangements showed some passengers queued for two hours and 31 minutes last week.

"Anybody who has gone through an airport in recent times has experienced the poor standards that the border force has provided," said Mr Walsh.

"The Government has tried to convince people that we don't have a crisis, the Government is misleading people, we have a crisis, it has been there for some time and we need urgent action."

Waiting times at the UK's airports have come under increased scrutiny in recent weeks due to the upcoming Olympic Games when London's airports, and particularly Heathrow, can expect much increased burdens.

As an immediate fix, Mr Green has flown in immigration staff from Manchester Airport to make up numbers while former agents are expected to come out of retirement during the Games.

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