Border Force ‘choosing’ not to fully staff airports

Neil Lancefield

Border Force is “choosing” not to fully staff airport arrival halls where passengers are being forced to wait in long queues, a trade body has claimed.

Henk van Klaveren, head of public affairs at the Airport Operators Association, said it should be “entirely manageable” to process passengers promptly given the reduction in flights.

His comments come after Heathrow said passengers at the west London airport are queuing for up to six hours due to coronavirus paperwork being checked.

Mr van Klaveren told the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus: “What needs to happen is that Border Force needs to actually put the resources it has at the border, to ensure that they can manage the passenger numbers coming in.

“There are not many people travelling, it should be an entirely manageable thing to do.

“That means that all the desks need to be open, which they’re currently not.”

Border Force is “choosing not to fully staff the border”, Mr van Klaveren said.

He continued: “There is a process whereby they reduce the number of border officials at the border from a Covid perspective, despite the fact that airports have put in place the required screens.”

Mr van Klaveren insisted that airports are “working their absolute hardest” to avoid crowding, but claimed there is “very little you can do” once waiting times reach several hours.

He also criticised the Government’s ambition for ePassport gates to be able to check coronavirus documents by the autumn.

“Autumn is a preposterous deadline,” he said.

“It needs to be before the summer.”