People could be queuing at airports for up to 24 hours during the London Olympics, the chief of the UK Border Force has admitted.
UKBA director general Brian Moore insists staffing levels should be up to dealing with the surge in arrivals but warns he cannot rule out delays.
It comes after passengers at Heathrow Airport last month were forced to wait for hours before going through passport control.
The delays sparked concern about the world’s largest international airport’s ability to cope with the influx of visitors during the Olympics this summer.
The Olympic torch is already on its tour of the UK ahead of the start of the Games on July 27 after it was flown in from Greece last week. Thousands of officials working at the Games and competitors will be fast-tracked through immigration at Heathrow, with hundreds of extra UKBA staff brought in to speed up the process.
Mr Moore told MPs when pressed about the recent problems that he was satisfied staffing levels would be able to cope but he stopped short of guaranteeing delays would be eradicated.
“I do not anticipate seeing large queues of two, three and four hours because of the work we are doing to move our resources, However there will always be circumstances beyond our control,” he said.
He repeatedly declined to tell the Commons home affairs committee what he personally considered a “reasonable” wait, but said he believed the public generally accepted a 25-minute target. Mr Moore admitted using resources flexibly was “sometimes not a strength of the Border Force” but said action was being taken to avoid a repeat of the recent delays.
He was also forced to deny that contingency staff being drafted in to man border posts over the summer were receiving less training than permanent workers.
The five or six-day procedure is the same as the period within a 15-week training course that relates to the particular role they will be performing, he told MPs.
Mr Moore, who was previously Wiltshire Police chief constable, was seconded to take over the UKBA in March following the row over Brodie Clark and lax border security.
Labour leader Ed Miliband has spoken out against the possibility of industrial action during the Olympics after London bus drivers were balloted over a potential strike.
Mr Miliband said public sector workers in the capital may face “extra strain” when the Games are happening but stressed that avoiding disruption was “really important”.
Published with permission from Olympics Maza.