Out of border: Staff cuts are putting airport security at risk, says whistleblower

A whistleblower at crisis-hit Heathrow airport has warned immigration job cuts are putting national security at risk.

The experienced officer claims specially trained staff who used to carry out spot checks to find forged passports and visas – often used by terrorists – have been deployed elsewhere because of cutbacks.

Tony Cole, not his real name, said: “If things looked odd they could give an expert view as they walked behind the desks, but now that is not available.”

He added morale was at rock bottom and officers felt UK Border Agency managers treated them like “check-out operators” in a supermarket.

He said: “They want passengers out as fast as possible – gone. We feel undervalued as we are being considered as check-out operatives

“They are not interested in our casework – monitoring suspicious movements, visitors pretending to be tourists, but working illegally – all that’s gone.”

And he said staff sympathised with passengers who have suffered long queues at passport control.

He said: “To be honest they are being perfectly reasonable, but get frustrated when they walk into the hall with 1,000 other passengers and see five people on the desks.

“We can only say, ‘Sorry, this is it, we don’t have anyone else anywhere in the building to put on the desks’.”

To ease the crisis, bosses are rehiring staff who received generous redundancy payouts just months ago.

One insider said: “No one is complaining as these are experienced people who know the ropes, but it raises questions about why so many people were let go in the first place.”

The Immigration Services Union, which represents 4,500 staff at ports and airports, said its members will strike next Thursday over plans to raise the retirement age.

This article was originally posted by the Daily Mirror on 3rd May 2012

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