Border officers are being pulled out of airports and relocated to the English Channel to help deal with record numbers in migrants arriving in Britain, it has been reported.
Agents from Border Force are having to leave positions at some of the busiest border gates in the UK for Kent, where more staff are needed to process and detain migrants arriving by small boats.
However, the move by the Home Office will likely worsen queues at airports, where queues for passport control have already been stretched to hours in length.
Heathrow Airport alone expected 60,000 passengers departing each day on the weekend, the highest number this year.
Agents from Border Force are having to leave positions at some of the busiest border gates in the UK for Kent, where more staff are needed to process and detain migrants arriving by small boats, it has been reported
It was reported officers were being redeployed to Dover from airports including Heathrow and Gatwick as well as the ports of Southampton, Portsmouth and Newhaven
A Gatwick Airport spokesman said it was also expecting its busiest weekend of the year so far, with flights heading out to more than 100 destinations in 30 countries.
But the easing of restrictions and start of school holidays has combined with border guards being forced to isolate to create huge queues at the border.
According to The Times, as many as one in ten Border Force staff had been forced to isolate at some airports after being pinged by the NHS app.
On Saturday, Heathrow arrivals at Terminal 2 were forced to wait for up to three hours to get through passport control after e-gates broke down and the pingdemic left just one official at the desks, according to frustrated passengers.
But yesterday, the Sunday Telegraph reported officers were being redeployed to Dover from airports including Heathrow and Gatwick as well as the ports of Southampton, Portsmouth and Newhaven.
Lucy Moreton, of the Union for Borders, Immigration and Customs, told the publication that this could lead to greater delays for passengers, especially during peak times of the day when the passengers from multiple flights arrive at the same time.
The move by the Home Office will likely worsen queues at airports, where queues for passport control have already been stretched to hours in length. Pictured: Arrivals at Heathrow’s Terminal 5
On Saturday, Heathrow arrivals at Terminal 2 were forced to wait for up to three hours to get through passport control after e-gates broke down and the pingdemic left just one official at the desks, according to frustrated passengers
The number of migrants crossing the Channel between 2019-21 has been increasing year-on-year. The graph above shows how many have crossed each month. The red line for 2021 soars above the lines for previous years, showing the monthly total is now at its highest ever
She added that the union was also concerned some staff were having to travel over 250 miles from their ‘home base’ to put in a shift of ‘physically demanding work’ before having to return home.
‘The more this happens the more fatigued staff get and the greater the risk of accident.
‘The ISU has written formally to the Home Office raising concerns about the excess hours that staff are working and the significant risk to both the staff and potentially members of the public.’
Paul Charles, founder of the PC Agency, the travel consultancy, said: ‘Border Force need to ensure that it has got enough staff at key airports, especially Heathrow, which are now starting to see some signs of a recovery over the summer.
‘There is an onus on the Home Office to ensure they have got enough staff to process passengers to get them through.’
The number of migrants to have reached British shores this year has already surpassed last year’s record of 8,410.
Last week it was reported that as many as 22,000 migrants could cross the Channel by the end of the year.
It comes as Home Secretary Priti Patel confirmed a further £54m would be given to French authorities to strengthen patrols to prevent crossings.
Last week it was reported that as many as 22,000 migrants could cross the Channel by the end of the year
However, it has emerged that France cannot deploy its own drones to catch migrants before as they make their way to the north coast because of privacy laws.
The authorities have been limited by a ruling from the national privacy watchdog, known as CNIL, which found that the government’s use of drone cameras to enforce coronavirus restrictions and for other law enforcement purposes was ‘outside of any legal framework’.
This however has now undermined their ability to carry out drone searches for Britain-bound migrants. The French government said they are working to resolve the dispute.
On top of this, Gérald Darmanin, the interior minister, said that 60 per cent of those in Calais had arrived in France through Belgium, and so had asked Frontex, Europe’s Border and Coast Guard Agency, to take up patrols and surveillance.
‘We are not yet up to scratch. Other meetings are planned, notably in September in Cardiff as part of the G7,’ Darmanin said.
‘We need European air surveillance. I myself have contacted Frontex, which is predominantly taking care of southern Europe, and asked them to deal with northern Europe, too, particularly the coastline of Nord-Pas-de-Calais.’
Ms Patel is also said to have vented her frustration at Dan O’Mahoney, Border Force’s Clandestine Channel Threat Commander, saying that the numbers must come down.
The Home Office was approached for comment.
Priti Patel’s plan to pay France £55m to handle migrants trying to cross the Channel: Explained
Priti Patel has agreed to give France another £54million to stop the growing number of migrants crossing the Channel
Priti Patel has agreed to give France another £54million to stop the growing number of migrants crossing the Channel.
The Home Secretary’s controversial agreement with French interior minister Gerald Darmanin will see policing numbers along the French coast more than double to 200 to cover a wider area.
There will also be an increased use of aerial surveillance, including drones. The two countries agreed to draw up a long-term plan for a ‘smart border’ using technology to identify where crossings are being attempted.
But the deal failed to impress critics, who accuse the French authorities of not doing enough to stop small boats leaving their territorial waters.
With UK support last year, France doubled the number of officers deployed daily on French beaches, improved intelligence sharing and purchased more cutting-edge technology. This resulted in France preventing twice as many crossings so far this year than in the same period in 2020.
However, as French interceptions increased, the Home Office said that organised criminal gangs have changed their tactics, moving further up the French coast, and forcing migrants to take even longer, riskier journeys.
Charities branded the measures inhumane, while refugee rights campaigner Lord Dubs said Miss Patel’s plans were a ‘disservice to this country’s history’.