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Consular news – Embassy 48

Border chief turns down plea for diplomatic lane at airports

A channel dedicated to diplomats arriving at London’s airports remains off the cards, the Head of the UK Border Force recently told a gathering of consuls, but a premium fast-track service will be extended to high-value visitors.

In turning down the request for a dedicated diplomatic lane, Sir Charles Montgomery said VIP facilities already existed for missions that were prepared to pay.

However diplomats and VIPs who cannot afford the premium price tag complain about being grilled inappropriately about their immigration status by border staff.

Sir Charles promised improvements and said queuing times at UK airports had reduced significantly since the UK Border Force was brought directly under Home Office control last spring.

He added that the UKBA was a “monolithic” organisation and that its disaggregation into the Border Force, Immigration Enforcement and UK Visas and Immigration “made sense”. Sir Charles pledged to create a contact point for diplomats in each of the three organisations, as exists for MPs and Peers. 

Keeping Britain open for business was important, but protecting national security was his main priority, said Sir Charles. In the past year, the Border Force had made 100,000 seizures, intercepting illegal material that could go on to fund organised crime. Almost 10,000 people were refused entry at UK borders.

These successes depended on cooperation with international partners, he added. Drugs interdiction operations in West Africa and the Caribbean had taken 2.5 tonnes of class A drugs out of circulation, while the sharing of intelligence with EU members states and other countries such as the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand had helped to counter illegal migration and cross-border criminality. The UK also engages in capacity building in several countries which helps to build effective border controls and cooperation.

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