Ex-Border Force chief brands chaotic seven-hour queues at Heathrow a ‘disaster’

I have known Tony Smith a long time & he is the best people movement expert around. Everybody should listen to his advice. Everybody should listen to his advice.

The former head of the UK Border Force has called the queuing carnage at Heathrow a ‘disaster’ and mounted pressure on ministers to get a grip on the crisis.

Tony Smith, who also served as Gold Commander for the London Olympics, said the Government should use technology to lighten the load on stretched officers.

Passengers arriving into Britain have been facing waits of up to seven hours while short-staffed officials process Covid paperwork, such as locator forms. 

Yesterday a woman collapsed at the passport control desk after queuing for hours before being told she’d had to pay £1,750 for a hotel to quarantine.  

Mr Smith urged international governments and airlines to ‘show leadership’ by getting together to hammer out a solution.

He suggested checking people’s documents before they board flights to avert clogging up the borders.

‘This is a bit of a disaster. I managed the borders for all the Olympics, and those was the busiest we ever had in the UK, and at Heathrow – record numbers, high security”

‘And we did work with the airlines, we worked with the airports, with worked with our colleagues. The answer is: why don’t we check these things before people get onboard? 

‘We do it with passports, we do it with visas, if the airlines don’t do that, they get fined. We need international collaboration between the airports, the airlines and governments.’

Such pre-flight passenger checks could be easily managed with apps, he suggested, as a way of easing the load on border force staff.

Giving a damning verdict of the current chaos, Mr Smith said: ‘All we’re doing is loading more and more pressure on to our hard-pressed officers at the border, asking them to do more and more things, and they’re getting beaten up every day because “we’re the ones who are the problem”.

We’re not the one’s who are the problem, the problem is we’re not opening up our mind and doing what we did after 9/11 and getting the right people to sort this out. We can show leadership and fix this and we’re not doing this – I’m very frustrated about this.’