The former head of the British border force has called the Heathrow queue massacre a ‘disaster’ and has put pressure on ministers to come to grips with the crisis.
Tony Smith, who also served as Gold Commander for the London Olympics, said the government should use technology to ease the burden of stretched officers.
Passengers arriving in Britain face waiting times of up to seven hours, while low-staffed officials handle Covid paperwork, such as locator forms.
Yesterday, a woman collapsed at the passport control desk after standing in line for hours before being told she should have paid £ 1,750 to quarantine a hotel.
Mr. Smith urged international governments and airlines to “show leadership” by coming up with a solution together.
He suggested checking people’s documents before boarding to avoid border clogging.
Former head of the British border force Tony Smith (left) has called the Heathrow queue massacre a ‘disaster’ and put pressure on ministers to come to grips with the crisis. Yesterday a woman collapsed at the passport control desk (right)
Passengers arriving in Britain have to wait up to seven hours, while low-staffed officials process Covid paperwork, such as locator forms (Heathrow pictured yesterday)
He told LBC, ‘This is a bit of a disaster. I managed the borders for all the Olympics, and they were the busiest we’ve ever had in the UK and at Heathrow – record numbers, high security.
‘And we worked with the airlines, we worked with the airports, we worked with our colleagues. The answer is, why don’t we check these things before people get in?
‘We do it with passports, we do it with visas, if the airlines don’t do that, they will be fined. We need international cooperation between airports, airlines and governments. ‘
Such pre-flight passenger checks could be easily managed with apps, he suggested, as a way to ease the burden on border personnel.
Smith gave a damning verdict on the current chaos, saying, “ All we’re doing is putting more and more pressure on our over-burdened agents at the border, asking them to do more and more things, and they get beat up every day because “we are the ones who are the problem”.
‘We’re not the ones who are the problem, the problem is we don’t open our minds and do what we did after 9/11 and get the right people to fix this. We can show leadership and resolve this and we are not doing this – I am very frustrated with this. ‘
Passengers have expressed anger at the long delays in Heathrow arrivals. Some passengers have had to wait up to six hours to leave the border due to a shortage of Border Force personnel
Passengers will arrive with their luggage at Terminal 2 of Heathrow Airport today
Yesterday the bosses of Heathrow Airport, British Airways and Jet2 lashed out at the ‘inhuman and completely avoidable’ queues.
They called on Interior Minister Priti Patel to increase the number of border guards, as passport control often has ‘barely staffed desks’.
The wider use of electronic passport ports would ensure hassle-free vacations once foreign travel resumes under the government’s ‘traffic light’ system, the experts said.
Sean Doyle, head of BA, said it has worked hard to ensure it can safely welcome customers, but public confidence would be undermined ‘if we are not fully prepared at the entry points to the UK’.
Heathrow Airport boss John Holland-Kaye said: “Recently, passengers arriving in this country have had to wait more than six hours with barely staffed desks. This is inhumane and completely avoidable.
Tony Smith urged international governments and airlines to “show leadership” by working together to find a solution. Pictured: Heathrow today
Such pre-flight passenger checks could be easily managed with apps, Mr. Smith suggested, as a way to ease the burden on border staff.
“This is a wake-up call for ministers to make sure that when international travel resumes, border processes are automated and every desk is staffed.”
While non-essential travel remains banned – and will remain so until 17 May at the earliest – thousands still enter the UK every day.
Chris Garton, head of operations at Heathrow, told MPs this week why the log disturbances occurred.
He said, “What has happened is that a whole bunch of new controls – 100 percent control of everyone – have been put in place, and that has clearly put a huge burden on the agents working at the border. The Ministry of the Interior has not made additional officers available to them. ‘
A spokesperson for the Home Office said: ‘Queues and waiting times will be longer at the moment as it is vital that we carry out thorough checks at the border and because some passengers have not met the necessary requirements to enter the UK such as buying Covid test packages or pre-booking their hotel quarantine. ‘