The Home Office has admitted that long queues for immigration checks at the airport were “unacceptable” as the problem stems from a lack of border guards.
Incoming passengers have struggled this week over waiting times to get through passport control on arrival at London’s Heathrow Airport and it has been reported that people have passed out and families have been left with no facilities for young children.
Many of the UK’s long haul flights use Heathrow. The airport said Border Force, which manages the checkpoint at Heathrow, knew there would be additional demand and said they were “very disappointed” that they did not have enough staff on duty Friday night.
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It comes after a number of days of arrivals at Heathrow complaining about the length of the lines at the border and the lack of social distancing.
On Monday, one passenger said the immigration process at Terminal 2 was “incompetent, ridiculous” and added that he was forced to wait more than five hours with “no water, no toilet”.
On Saturday afternoon, a Heathrow spokeswoman said: “We are very sorry that passengers were faced with unacceptable queues at the immigration office last night due to insufficient border guards on duty.
“Border Force was aware of the additional demand from families and we were very disappointed that they did not provide enough resources.
“Additional Heathrow colleagues helped manage queues and distribute passenger welfare including water, but we need every immigration desk manned at peak times.
“We escalated this with Border Force and expect them to provide better service for the rest of the weekend.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “During the pandemic, we knew the lines could potentially be longer as we ensure that all passengers adhere to the health measures that have been put in place for the safety of the UK public.
“However, the very long waits we saw at Heathrow last night are unacceptable. This is the busiest weekend of the year for returning passengers, with a particularly large number of families with children under 12 unable to use e-gates.
“Border Force quickly checks its duty rosters and capacities and uses our employees flexibly at the airport to improve waiting times. We work very closely with Heathrow Airport and its airlines and we are all committed to ensuring that all passengers have a safe and trouble-free journey. “
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