The UK government looks to meet the demands of inbound tourism this summer by using lightly trained support staff to man security at major border crossings -- including Heathrow during the Olympics.
Source: Daily Telegraph
By Tom Whitehead
Backroom administrative staff will be tasked with spotting illegal immigrants and potential terrorists after just three days training, it has emerged.
They are among 700 civil service volunteers the Home Office is urgently drafting in amid a series of fiascos at airports and ports.
Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has faced criticism in recent weeks that staff cuts has resulted in air passengers facing huge queues and long delays when passing through immigration control, especially at Heathrow.
A report earlier this month said staff numbers at Heathrow’s Terminal 3 fell by 15 per cent in a year and rota changes meant some went off duty at the busiest times of the day.
It has led to fears shortages will create chaos when hundreds of thousands of extra people arrive in the UK this summer for the Olympic Games.
Civil servants are now being drafted in to fill the gaps and will be paid £250 a day in bonuses and expenses but MPs and unions warned it will put the country at risk.
The temporary staff will be given just three days training in how to spot suspicious passengers compared with the 15 weeks an immigration officer receives.
Keith Vaz, the chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, said: ‘I am very concerned.
‘We are already at a heightened terror alert, and terrorists would like to launch attacks during events like the Olympics.
“Also, illegal immigrants are devising evermore sophisticated ways to enter the country. We need highly-skilled people to man passport desks, not poorly-trained volunteers.’
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper added: “The Government have had years to plan for the Olympics and to train up the necessary staff needed.
“How on earth can Ministers be in this last minute rush and shambles? What have they been doing for the last 2 years?
“Drafting in poorly trained staff at the last minute to cover the entire summer pressures and Olympics is taking risks with our security and with the country’s reputation at a time when the whole world’s eyes will be on us.”
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, said: ‘The delays at our airports have been caused by a 22 per cent cut in staff, and the Home Office is simply trying to put a sticking plaster on what is a very serious injury.’
Lucy Moreton, deputy general secretary of the Immigration Services Union, said: ‘These people will be on the front line to spot terrorists and illegal immigrants entering the UK, and they cannot adequately learn those skills in three days.”
A UK Border Force spokesman said: “We will not compromise the safety of border and are fully prepared for the busy Olympic period. We will be implementing our well rehearsed plans, including a contingency pool of staff who will have all the necessary training to maintain border security.
“We will always seek to minimise disruption to the public. All immigration desks at Heathrow and other key ports will be fully staffed during peak periods.”