Don’t panic! Now ministers hire filing clerks to guard borders… after doing just three months’ training in three days
- Temporary staff will be responsible for spotting dubious passengers, passports and visas
- Civil servants will be able to claim Â£250 a day in bonuses and expenses
- The scheme is designed to cope with huge influx during the Olympics
Ineptocrat Theresa May
Fiasco: Home Secretary Theresa May has been criticised over huge hold-ups at Heathrow border control
Hundreds of clerical staff are being drafted in to solve the crisis at airport immigration desks and will be expected to spot fake passports and suspicious passengers after just three days’ training.
Low-level filing clerks and receptionists are among 700 usually desk-bound civil servants recruited for the temporary work.
They will be able to claim up to Â£250 a day in bonuses and expenses on top of their salaries as they cope with the massive influx of visitors expected for the Olympics.
The move comes just months after the Home Office laid off about 1,000 passport control workers as part of a programme of cutbacks.
The temporary staff will be responsible for spotting dubious passengers, passports and visas after only the most rudimentary classroom instruction.
In contrast, UK Border Agency staff receive up to 15 weeks of training before they man the front line.
Documents obtained by The Mail on Sunday reveal that some staff from the Home Office’s human resources department in Whitehall â€“ whoseÂ normal duties involve handling job applications and employee grievances â€“ have already volunteered.Â
But the temporary staff will not be given powers to detain passengers and refuse them entry because they won’t have completed the full training.
Instead they will have to hand over suspects to qualified passport officers.
The scheme has been condemned by MPs and unions, who have accused the Home Office of compromising Britain’s national security as up to 600,000 extra passengersÂ are expected for the London Games. Keith Vaz, the chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, said: ‘I am very concerned.
‘We are already at a heightened terror alert, and terrorists would like to launch attacks during events like the Olympics.
Worried: Keith Vaz (left), the chairman of the Home Affairs Committee and Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper have both slammed the idea – saying it is taking risks with security
‘Also, illegal immigrants are devising ever-more sophisticated ways to enter the country. We need highly-skilled people to man passport desks, not poorly-trained volunteers.’
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper added that the move was ‘taking risks with our security and with the country’s reputation at a time when the world’s eyes will be on us’.
She said: ‘This is all the consequence of a problem createdÂ by the Home Secretary, ignored by the Immigration Minister and left unresolved by the Prime Minister.
‘Border control is too important to be allowed to become another government shambles.’
‘You can’t learn how to spot a terrorist in just three days…’
Home Secretary Theresa May was criticised when passengers faced three-hour queues at Heathrow last month because of a shortage of border staff.
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, said: ‘The delays at our airports have been caused by a 22 per cent cut in staff, and the Home Office is simply trying to put a sticking plaster on what is a very serious injury.’
The temporary positions were advertised on the Home Office’s internal intranet site. A memo obtained by The Mail on Sunday says the positions are open to anyone who is a British citizen and whose position is between AO and G6.
‘AO’ stands for administrative officer, and includes workers who act asÂ filing clerks, letter-writers and who answer telephones as receptionists, earning about Â£17,000 per year. ‘G6’ is the lowestÂ tier of management, and may include some team managers.Â
In the memo, the Home Office’s director general of human resources, Kevin White, writes: ‘I understand that a number of HR colleagues have already kindly volunteered to support Border Force.’
STAFF WASTE HUNDREDS ON CABS – DESPITE BRING THEIR CARS TO WORK
Passport officers have spent hundreds of pounds of taxpayers’ money on taxiÂ fares between airports â€“despite having their ownÂ cars with them at work.
Last Sunday, 15 officers who usually work at Stansted airport in Essex were told to report to Heathrow instead,Â to help staff there cope with long queues.Â
But halfway through their shift, they were ordered to go to Stansted as queues there were building up.
Sources have said that the 15 officers took taxis back to Stansted even though their own cars were parked in Heathrow’s car parks.
The 55-mile journey costs about Â£200 at night for a cab hailed at Heathrow, or Â£175 for a pre-booked car.Â
When the workers finished their shift at Stansted, they then took taxis back to Heathrow to pick up their cars before driving home.Â
The same thing happenedÂ the previous Sunday with ten passport officers.
Such a costly use of taxis has been criticised by union officials.
Lucy Moreton, deputy general secretary of the Immigration Services Union, said: ‘No one knows why they used taxis when their cars were outside. It’s just a waste of money, and it’s hard to think how much time they would have saved by that.
‘This will happen againÂ as this is how they areÂ coping with queues, in this knee-jerk manner.’
The Home Office was last night unable to explain why the workers took taxis when they had their own cars.Â
But a source said that the staff did save money by sharing cabs.Â
A Home Office spokesman said: ‘We only use taxis when there are no other options available.’
The Immigration Services Union estimates that the temporary staff will be entitled to claim an extra Â£250 per day in bonuses and expenses.Â
The bonuses are made up of hotel and subsistence allowances, as well as extra payments for doing late and early-morning shifts.Â
Staff will also be paid up to double their shift rate if they work during the weekend.Â Â
In Mr White’s leaked memo, he confirms temporary staff will be given limited training: ‘You will receive a three-day training course to learn how to operate EU/EEA [European Economic Area] controls.’
Lucy Moreton, deputy general secretary of the Immigration Services Union, said: ‘These people will be on the front line to spot terrorists and illegal immigrants entering the UK, and they cannot adequately learn those skills in three days.’
‘They are taking risks with our security’
A border control officer at Heathrow said that most illegal immigrants trying to enter the airport were not stopped by passport scanners or the computer system, but by the judgment of staff.Â
‘Very few illegals enter Britain on forged passports,’ she said. ‘Most enter lawfully with valid passports and visas.
‘But it’s the immigration officer who will look at the person and say, “You are not here to study, you are here to work”, and detain him and investigate the case. You can’t pick up such skills in three days. We don’t feel it’s right.’
A spokesman for the Home Office said: ‘We will not compromise the safety of our borders and are fully prepared for the busy Olympic period.
‘We will be implementing our well-rehearsed plans, including [the creation of] a contingency pool of staff who will have all the necessary training to maintain border security.’