Heathrow queue targets failed

The Border Agency has failed to meet its targets for getting non-EU passport holders through immigration at all Heathrow Airport terminals last month, according to figures from airport operator BAA.

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Immigration Minister: We are working with airlines to get queue times down

Immigration Minister Damian Green told the BBC that the Government is aware that non-EU passport holders spend too long queuing at Heathrow and that they are looking at short term fixes, such as hiring more staff in time for the Olympics, as well as long term solutions.

He said he met with the British Air Transport Association earlier today and they discussed how the Government can work with the airline industry to decrease queue times whilst maintaining robust borders.

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Immigration Minister: 'Our first priority is to keep the border secure'

Immigration Minister Damian Green has defended the UK Border Force tonight over their queue times by saying that the checks they make are crucial to keep the UK border secure.

He also said that British Airways released the figures that he quoted to parliament: that the average queue for passengers was an hour and a half during April, not almost three hours.

Heathrow Border Force 'needs additional resources'

Simon Buck, the Chief Executive of the British Air Transport Association (Bata) says the government now recognise that the situation in Heathrow needs both short term and long term solutions, and that both of these require more resources.

He spoke to ITV News Senior Political Correspondent Chris Ship after he met the Home Secretary Theresa May and Immigration Minister Damian Green:

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Heathrow passengers queue for 'up to three hours'

On April 30th passport-check queues lasted up to three hours for passengers in Heathrow's Terminal 4 Credit: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

Passengers travelling into the UK through Heathrow last month were forced to queue at passport control for almost three hours.

Figures released by airport operator BAA showed that on April 30 there were passport queues of up to three hours at Heathrow's Terminal 4, twice as long as the figure Immigration Minister Damian Green suggested in the House of Commons.

On April 10 passengers in Terminal 5 faced queues of an hour, and on April 17 non-EU passport holders faced queues of two hours and thirty-five minutes.

Border system 'an absolute mess'

Andrew Tingley, an immigration lawyer at Kingsley Napley, said it was "beyond farcical" that new rules requiring foreign nationals from outside the EU to have a biometric residents permit had left the IT system unable to cope.

He said:

The system that was introduced was not fit for purpose. It was close to collapse a few weeks ago. It has now collapsed. It's an absolute mess.

Mr Tingley also warned of the impact on the UK's economy.

You have senior global managers and directors of companies saying, 'enough is enough'. Employers are saying they can't access a reasonable immigration system and they're considering moving abroad.

They've come to the point now where they're seriously considering not investing or working in the UK because they can't access any reasonably competent system.

'Passenger experience needs to be improved'

Corneel Koster, Virgin Atlantic Director of Operations, Safety and Security, said:

We have had a positive and constructive meeting with the Home Secretary and Immigration Minister.

They agree that the passenger experience needs to be improved and have welcomed our offer to work together to achieve this whilst at the same time maintaining the security of the UK Border.

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