Staff shortage brings chaos and queues to Heathrow


August 31, 2021
UK Border

Passengers arriving at Heathrow faced queues of up to five hours over the bank holiday weekend, prompting fresh criticism of Britain’s border regime.

Travellers complained of a shortage of staff on passport control desks and a lack of social distancing in queues.

It was claimed that only a quarter of desks in the arrivals hall were staffed, forcing travellers — including young children, pregnant women and older people — to wait for several hours. It is believed that the shortages were in part because Border Force staff were processing arrivals from Afghanistan.

“Have been waiting over five hours,” one traveller said on Twitter. “No water, no bathroom. This is a disgrace.”

Under Covid-19 protocols, all people arriving in Britain must fill in a “passenger locator form” with their contact details. Travellers also need to submit a negative test result and book at least one further PCR test.

It was reported last month that Border Force officials would no longer check all arrivals from green and amber countries.

One passenger at Heathrow at the weekend said that only six passport control desks out of about 32 in the arrivals hall were in use. Meidad Suchowolsky, 61, who had flown from Tel Aviv, said: “There are parents with babies and young children and people from many different countries — and we have no idea who is vaccinated and who isn’t.”

The Home Office said the government’s “utmost priority is protecting the safety and health of the public”, adding: “That means, occasionally, passengers will need to accept an increase in the time taken to cross the border.”