Airlines fear delays over border staff cuts

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Home Secretary Theresa May was accused of leaving the UK’s borders “dangerously understaffed” as airlines and airports warned of “unacceptable” delays over the Easter weekend.

Shadow Immigration Minister Chris Bryant said Government cuts to Border Force staff were “leaving the security of the UK exposed”.

But the Border Force insisted there would be no compromise over security, saying they aimed “to keep disruption to a minimum by using our staff flexibly”.

It came as airlines warned the Home Secretary that Britain “risks gridlock” at airports over the Easter break due to staff shortages.

British Airways and Virgin Airlines are among 11 firms that have written to Mrs May in anticipation of “unacceptable” delays over the long weekend.

Mr Bryant said: “It is time that the Home Secretary came clean about the security at our borders.

“Her cuts to staff have seen passport queues lengthen, not only leading to delays for passengers but also leaving UK Border Force staff with a difficult decision of whether to relax security to alleviate congestion and risk allowing people to enter the UK without being properly checked.

“With a cut of over 5,000 staff promised by the next election, the Home Secretary is leaving our borders dangerously understaffed, just when the UK is expecting record numbers of arrivals for London 2012.” He went on: “Our national border security is paramount, as should be our ability to safely welcome thousands flocking to the UK for the Olympics, but Tory-led Government is putting this at risk with under-resourced passport controls at our ports and airports.”

A Border Force spokeswoman said: “We will not compromise border security, but we always aim to keep disruption to a minimum by using our staff flexibly to meet demand.

“Carrying out full checks at airports help us stop threats from terrorists, criminals and others who want to harm the UK, and make sure that only those with the right to enter the UK can do so.”

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