Chief Inspector publishes report on Heathrow Airport Terminal 3

The UK Border Agency’s resources at Heathrow Terminal 3 were not effectively matched to demand and too many organisational changes were taking place during the busiest time of the year, said John Vine CBE QPM, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, publishing the report of an inspection of Heathrow Airport Terminal 3.

London Heathrow is the largest airport in the UK and the third busiest in the world. At the time of inspection, it was served by four terminals, with Terminal 3 being the second busiest, handling 20.4 million passengers on 107,000 flights in 2010. This inspection of operations at Heathrow Terminal 3 explored the efficiency and effectiveness of the Agency across immigration and customs functions.

The Chief Inspector was pleased to find that:

  • staff were professional and courteous in their dealings with passengers at the Primary Control Point;
  • there was good staff awareness of the need to safeguard children; and
  • 97% of sampled decisions to refuse entry to the UK were correctly made.

However, the Chief Inspector was concerned to find that:

  • resources were not being effectively matched to demand;
  • there were too many organisational changes taking place during Heathrow’s busiest time of the year;
  • an examination of search of person records showed that in 67% of cases, the search was neither justified nor proportionate; and
  • the Agency was failing to deal proactively with absconders.

John Vine, Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, said:

“London Heathrow is by far the UK’s busiest airport, handling a considerable volume of passengers, many of whom require entry clearance to enter the country. Terminal 3 accounts for almost a third of Heathrow passenger traffic. In general, I found that staff were professional and courteous in their dealings with passengers and were aware of their responsibilities to safeguard children. However, I have significant concerns across a number of areas.

“I found that recent organisational changes such as the introduction of team based working, a new shift working system and the amalgamation of immigration and customs roles had suffered from a lack of effective planning. Resources were not matched to demand, management oversight and assurance was lacking in many areas and staff were not always properly trained to undertake their duties. This was far too much organisational change during Heathrow’s busiest time of the year. I remain concerned that this lack of planning has affected the Agency’s ability to maintain an effective and efficient border control.

“Additionally, an examination of search of person records showed that in two thirds of cases, the search was neither justified nor proportionate or in line with legislation and Agency guidance. This was a significant failing.

“Finally, in relation to absconders, our overall findings show a significant reduction in absconder recovery rates for Terminal 3. The Border Force and the Agency need to be much more proactive to improve performance in this area.”

Download this report as a pdf here:

Inspection of Border Control Operations at Terminal 3 Heathrow Airport