Huge Heathrow delays as border desks still unmanned at peak times
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Despite the Border Force's promise to man all immigration desks at Heathrow Airport at peak times over the summer it has failed, causing huge delays, the Daily Telegraph reported.
The newspaper says it saw internal BAA documents that revealed how the 'chaotic deployment' of staff in the past weeks adding more misery for travellers.
Earlier in the year, immigration minister Damian Green promised that desks at key ports would be fully mans at peak times 'over the summer'.
But only 12 desks were manned at Heathrow when the airport saw the longest queue of just over two hours at 7.30pm on 18 June.
All 20 desks were covered throughout quieter times when the queues for non EU passengers were just 15 minutes.
At Terminal 3 more than half the desks were unmanned on at least one of the busiest days last month but staffing levels increased later in the morning at the same time that there were less flights arriving.
Lucy Moreton, deputy general secretary of the Immigration Service Union said: 'Most contingency staff are not sent to the desks until around 10am.'
The Daily Telegraph discovered that the staff spend much of their time having tea breaks, waiting to be sent to terminals and being transported around the airport.
It emerged that last month's queuing time of over two hours recorded by Heathrow's operator BAA is also an underestimate as the figures did not include the people waiting in corridors outside the arrival halls.
BAA said there were occasions when it was unable to count everybody in the queue. A spokesman said: 'We measure from the last person in the queue, even if the queue stretches out of the immigration hall. On some occasions the queue has stretched to the point where non-EEA and EEA passengers become mixed.'
'On these occasions we measure from the point at which the queues are separated into EEA and non-EEA passengers. We acknowledge that this means there may be occasions on which passengers wait longer than the measured time.'
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: 'These latest figures confirm what passengers already know – the immigration minister doesn't even know what is happening at our airports and the borders fiasco continues.'
'Theresa May is in danger of turning the Borders Force into a borders farce. First the Home Secretary cut over 900 border officers then the Home Office re-employ them in a panic or put undertrained new recruits onto the front line wasting extra taxpayers money too.'
A Home Office spokesman said: 'This is simply not true. The Immigration Minister said we would provide extra staff for busy periods this summer and ensure all desks are fully manned during the peak Olympic arrival period and during the Games. That's exactly what we're doing.'
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