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JANET STREET-PORTER: Border Force officials ought to turn their attention to Heathrow

Unveiling a knee-jerk policy that’s doomed to failure by ordering Border Force officials to turn around boats laden with immigrants in the Channel (hoping they float back to France), Priti Patel is back in the headlines ‘protecting’ UK borders.

Patel claims these new tactics are legally sanctioned. Whatever. The ‘policy’ is laughable. 

Will officials use extending cattle prods to turn around leaking inflatable mattresses and dinghies laden with babies and pregnant women so they point towards Calais and shout ‘on your way?’

Even if the migrants don’t drown, even if they end up back in Calais it will make little difference. They will only try again.

According to the Mayor of Calais it is impossible to stop the boats with 300 to 400 kilometres of coastline to patrol day and night. He asks ‘are we supposed to put a policeman every 100 metres?’

Border Force officials claim the five hour delays are because of the need to check covid paperwork- but that’s not the truth, according to travel experts. Out of 40 desks at one terminal, all but six remained empty one day this week

It’s just another example of Priti Patel’s determination to appear tough at all costs.

But as the Home Secretary grapples with the slippery French who refuse to comply with her demands in spite of being showered with millions of our cash, a far larger group of people are trying to enter the UK quite legally – a group which (bizarrely) she has chosen to ignore.

Instead of bobbing about with binoculars off Dungeness, Border Force officials ought to be turning their attention to the scandalous scenes on the frontline at Heathrow and other airports.

It isn’t quite as bad as crossing the channel in a leaky inflatable boat but these people – holidaymakers, ordinary families, pensioners, businessmen and women – are going through hell.

They have all complied with official requests for reams of tedious covid paperwork. 

They’ve shelved out hundreds of pounds (around £105 for a couple – often more than the cost of their tickets) to comply with the bureaucratic form-filing and unnecessary testing required by the British government. 

Will officials use extending cattle prods to turn around leaking inflatable mattresses and dinghies laden with babies and pregnant women so they point towards Calais and shout 'on your way?' Migrants are seen being taken into Dover by Border Force on Wednesday

 Will officials use extending cattle prods to turn around leaking inflatable mattresses and dinghies laden with babies and pregnant women so they point towards Calais and shout ‘on your way?’ Migrants are seen being taken into Dover by Border Force on Wednesday

Unveiling a knee-jerk policy that's doomed to failure by ordering Border Force officials to turn around boats laden with immigrants in the Channel (hoping they float back to France ), Priti Patel is back in the headlines 'protecting' UK borders

Unveiling a knee-jerk policy that’s doomed to failure by ordering Border Force officials to turn around boats laden with immigrants in the Channel (hoping they float back to France ), Priti Patel is back in the headlines ‘protecting’ UK borders

They are in possession of passports, identity cards, filled-in locator forms, proof of address, double jabbing, etc etc etc.

Yet currently, anyone entering the UK by air is being treated disgracefully, forced to ignore social distancing, shuffling in queues for hour after hour with no food, refreshments, seating or support. Walking miles because there are no shuttle buses.

Border Force officials claim the five hour delays are because of the need to check covid paperwork- but that’s not the truth, according to travel experts. Out of 40 desks at one terminal, all but six remained empty one day this week. There have been three to five hour queues every day. Where are all the missing staff?

For weeks now, Border Force officials have been responsible for huge queues at many airports including Manchester, Luton, Gatwick and Heathrow- even when the compulsory paperwork has already been checked and double checked at the airport an where they embarked on their flight back into the UK. They say they are double-checking identities. How hard is that with modern technology?

Our traffic light system is a confusing joke and airline and airport bosses, travel operators and ferry companies say it’s not fit for purpose, the most complicated in Europe. At present anyone returning from a red list country, even if double jabbed – must isolate for 10 days in a hotel and take three PCR tests. 

Unveiling a knee-jerk policy that's doomed to failure by ordering Border Force officials to turn around boats laden with immigrants in the Channel (hoping they float back to France), Priti Patel is back in the headlines 'protecting' UK borders

Unveiling a knee-jerk policy that’s doomed to failure by ordering Border Force officials to turn around boats laden with immigrants in the Channel (hoping they float back to France), Priti Patel is back in the headlines ‘protecting’ UK borders

At present, everyone arriving from amber or green countries must take a PCR test within two days of arrival even if double jabbed – the government is considering removing this requirement next week, but nothing is definite.

Heathrow’s terminals resemble the arrivals zone in a banana republic, not a country which claims to be one of the most welcoming and sophisticated in the developed world.

Women have been forced to breastfeed babies standing up, children are crying and upset, fights have broken out and tempers are (unsurprisingly) frayed.

What crime have these travellers committed that results in being treated like prisoners on remand?

They have dared to leave the sovereignty of the British Isles and travel to another country. 

They have weighed up the government’s confusing and irrational travel ‘guidance’ and the conflicting messaging from the Foreign Office and the Department of Transport and they’ve thought – sod it – we’re going away for some sun and a break before the schools start up.

Or even crazier, they are foreigners who thought coming to the UK for business or pleasure would be a good idea.

You might well suspect that there’s a secret government plan at work here designed to deter Brits from exercising a basic human right – taking a holiday abroad rather than an over-priced staycation in over-crowded Cornwall.

Such lack of patriotism must be punished!

It would certainly explain why nobody in government seems to give a monkey’s.

Instead of bobbing about with binoculars off Dungeness, Border Force officials ought to be turning their attention to the scandalous scenes on the frontline at Heathrow and other airports. Migrants are seen being brought into Dover by Border Force on Wednesday

Instead of bobbing about with binoculars off Dungeness, Border Force officials ought to be turning their attention to the scandalous scenes on the frontline at Heathrow and other airports. Migrants are seen being brought into Dover by Border Force on Wednesday

Now war has broken out between the owners of Heathrow and the Border Force officials. This week, the airport tweeted that anyone arriving should ‘expect unacceptable queue times’ at the Border. So what can they do about it? Turn around in mid-air?

Heathrow airport owners have an agreement with Border Force that 95% of arrivals with UK or EU passports should be processed within 25 minutes, and others within 45 minutes. 

Clearly, the system has totally broken down, with Border Force officials blaming families with children under 12, who are not able to use the e-passport gates.

It’s not as if large numbers of families arriving home at the end of the school holidays is a surprise – experts predict the number of arrivals every week of the year and adjust manning levels. 

The other week we were told there weren’t enough officials at Heathrow because they were ordered away from the airport to deal with an influx of immigrants elsewhere.

Heathrow bosses say Border Force missed their targets for six out of twelve months in 2020. 

The inept head of the Force who presided over the chaos and queues during the pandemic has been awarded an OBE and is retiring – only in the UK could an MMM person- (male, middle aged and mediocre) – be thanked with a gong for doing a job so badly. 

He’s being replaced with yet another MMM person, hopefully not one who will blame 12 year olds for five hour queues.

It’s time to call in the people who run Morrisons or Sainsbury to get a grip on staffing levels and instill a can-do mindset at Border Control. It’s can’t be harder than predicting sales of ice cream and barbecue meats in hot weather.

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