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Border Force missing queue targets

The extent to which the Border Force failed to meet some immigration-queue targets at Heathrow last month has been revealed.

Figures show that on April 30 there were passport-check queues of up to three hours at Heathrow's Terminal 4.

This was around twice as long as the figure under-fire Immigration Minister Damian Green has suggested in the House of Commons.

The statistics, released by airport operator BAA, showed that, on average, the Border Force failed to meet its target for getting non-EU passport holders through immigration at all Heathrow terminals last month,.

The non-EU target at Terminal 5 (T5) was missed on 23 out of 30 days in April. The non-EU target was missed on 21 days at Terminal 3 and at Terminal 4, and missed on 12 days at Terminal 1.

There were hour-long queues at T5 on April 10, while there were queues of two hours 35 minutes for non-EU passport holders at T5 on April 17. But despite these long queues on some days, the targets in April were, on average, met for EU passport holders.

The Border Force admitted that "at times" queues had been too long, while Labour said Mr Green's "complacency in Parliament on Monday has now been shown to be completely misplaced".

Of particular concern is the fact that at Terminal 5 only 75.7% of non-EU passport holders were through in less than 45 minutes. This is where British Airways planes take off and land and it is by far the busiest Heathrow terminal in terms of passengers and flights.

Willie Walsh, chief executive of BA's parent company, IAG, said the situation is damaging for Britain, particularly in the run-up to the London Olympics. Next Thursday immigration staff will stage a one-day strike in a bitter dispute over public pensions, threatening huge disruption at airports, including Heathrow.

A Border Force spokesman said: "Border Force and BAA data shows that queuing time targets for UK and EEA citizens were not breached during April. But we know at times queues have been too long. That is why we have announced an extra 80 staff for peak times at Heathrow. And it's why we've also engaged an extra 480 people to cover the Olympic period."