visabureau.com > blogs > official blog

News, commentary & perspective from Visa Bureau

UK Immigration Update - Olympic Special - 27 July, 2012

by Dominic 27/07/2012 11:33:00
The Olympic Games has technically already started with several events underway and records already having been broken. However, no event of such a large scale could possibly start without issues and the Olympics have had a few, both in the run up to the Games, and during the events.

With so many people coming from all over the world, it was inevitable that many of the main concerns surrounding the Games would centre on UK immigration. Here is a look at some of the Games' issues in the past week.

UK immigration strike called off

A strike by UK immigration staff set to go ahead on the eve of the Olympic Games has been called off after talks...read more.

UK immigration staff: Smooth Olympic queues more important than security

Staff at the country's borders have claimed that the smooth progress of queues through UK immigration checks during the Olympics is being given greater precedence over proper security...read more.

Pakistan promises to sue over UK visa allegations

The Pakistani government has announced its intention to sue British newspaper The Sun over allegations that criminals within the country were offering a UK visa to smuggle illegal immigrants, or possibly terrorists, into the UK as part of the Pakistan Olympic contingent...read more.




UK immigration strike called off

PCS union, which represents staff
including the UK Border Agency
has confirmed it will not strike.

A strike by UK immigration staff set to go ahead on the eve of the Olympic Games has been called off after talks.

The PCS union had planned the strike in response to planned job cuts of frontline UK immigration staff but with so much riding on the smooth progress of the Games, the PCS said they had made 'major progress' in urgent discussions with the Home Office.

PCS said that the Government's cuts meant that as many as 8,500 Home Office jobs were at risk and the union balloted approximately 16,000 of its 250,000 members earlier this month. Of those polled more than half favoured industrial action with the day before the Games chosen as the time which would carry the most impact.

The decision was widely criticised with Prime Minister David Cameron saying any strike action would not be 'right or justified' and urgent talks were entered into.

The Home Office even sought a last minute High Court injunction to block the 24 hour strike but an injunction became unnecessary when PCS agreed to call off the strike just 45 minutes before the High Court session was due to begin.

The Home Office has since agreed to invest in 1,100 new jobs but PCS leader Mark Serwotka promised this would not be the end of the issue.

"We are not ending our dispute today... what we have done is not call action in the next few weeks," said Mr Serwotka.

"These are professional frontline staff who want to be able to serve the public and have the resources to do so."

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt welcomed the decision but said that so close to the Olympics was 'the wrong time to pursue a grievance'.

"If Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats can work together to make the Olympics a success, then even our most militant unions can recognise that this is not the right moment," said Mr Hunt.

"For an immigration officer - and I'm sure the vast majority of immigration officers feel this way - Thursday is one of the biggest days in their professional career.

"It is the day when the eyes of the world will be upon them and then welcome we are giving to the rest of the world. The vast majority of them will want to do a really good job and show what they are capable of."

back to the top




UK immigration staff: Smooth Olympic queues more important than security

Heathrow staff say smooth
progress of queues at British
has been given preference over
proper security checks.

Staff at the country's borders have claimed that the smooth progress of queues through UK immigration checks during the Olympics is being given greater precedence over proper security.

Speaking anonymously to the BBC, several Heathrow workers said Government cuts combined with overwhelming pressure to keep queues moving smoothly during the Games meant that requested checks of suspicious passengers were often foregone.

"We have a watch-list of passengers whose profile identifies them as people who might be bringing prohibited substances into the country," one Heathrow staff member said.

"On several occasions we've rung customs control to report a passenger, but they have not had anyone to follow it up.

"The priority is queue-busting."

With the Olympics starting today, British airports are expecting record numbers of arrivals and with reports earlier this summer of queuing times reaching three hours or more, the Government and the UK Border Agency (UKBA) are desperate to avoid a repeat but staff claim smooth progress is coming at the cost of security.

"The customs operation has virtually ceased," said another staff member. "Customs officers are being deployed on the queues. It's just queue-bust queue-bust. We're focused so heavily on 100% [passport checking] desk occupancy, everything else has stopped.

"If I were a drugs baron, it will be a free-for-all during the Olympics."

The Home Office maintains all proper checks are being carried out and security will not be compromised during the Games; the Home Office has reportedly spent £6 million on drafting extra staff to cope with increased demand. 

back to the top




Pakistan promises to sue over UK visa allegations

The Sun said scammers
were selling UK visas.

The Pakistani government has announced its intention to sue British newspaper The Sun over allegations that criminals within the country were offering to smuggle illegal immigrants, or possibly terrorists, into the UK as part of the Pakistan Olympic contingent.

The Sun claimed it had uncovered a scam in the country's second largest city Lahore which offered access to the London Olympics as part of the country's athletic squad for as little as £7,000.

The Pakistan government originally promised to investigate and prosecute anyone involved in such a scheme but has now changed its approach and promised to take legal action against The Sun over the 'dirty propaganda unleashed against Pakistan'.

Four Pakistani officials and three travel agents had been arrested in connection with the newspaper's allegations but have since been released.

The Sun has denied receiving any notice of legal action but defended its reputation for investigative journalism and promised to 'vigorously defend' themselves against any claims.

Meanwhile the British high commissioner to Pakistan, Adam Thompson says there is no evidence to support The Sun's claims and that 'Britain is satisfied with Pakistan's visa and passport issuance mechanisms'.

Mr Thompson said that while the visa system in the UK is not perfect, much like any, it would be impossible for anyone to sneak into an Olympic squad illegally.

back to the top



- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online Editor for the UK Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

Related posts