Armed U.S. immigration Officers to Be Stationed in U.K. Airports*
This latest move by the U.S. is being sold to unwitting British holiday makers and business travelers as a “solution to long immigration queues at U.S. airports.”
Under the new scheme, airlines would be forced to foot the bill for U.S. security personnel and their families to live in the U.K. They plan to pay for this by simply passing the extra costs onto passengers travelling from Britain to the U.S. In other words: air travel may have become more expensive for Brits heading to the US.
It’s not clear exactly why U.S. officers have to be armed in U.K. airports. Not surprisingly, few U.K. media outlets bothered to even question that aspect of the story.
Will the British government end up accepting this aggressive move by the U.S? If so, will it be a dangerous precedent?
By Chris Pleasance
Armed U.S. immigration officers could be stationed at airports in the U.K. under plans being discussed between the White House and Westminster.
Under the plans British passengers would have their visa paperwork checked before boarding flights, allowing them to skip some queues after arriving in America.
But there are fears it could drive up the price of tickets as it remains unclear who will foot the bill for immigration officers to live in this country.
Both Manchester and Edinburgh Airport are said to be eager to join the scheme.
Heathrow bosses are believed to have turned the idea down because the obstacles involved in bringing immigration officers to this country are insurmountable.
Meanwhile Gatwick declared that it has ‘no plans’ to participate in the scheme.
Home Office officials confirmed that the plans were being discussed. While it would be up to each airport to negotiate a different process with US authorities, the scheme would need overall approval by the government.
The U.S. already has special immigration checks in six countries around the world, with more than 600 law enforcement officers are stationed at 15 locations.
Pre-clearance operations in Dublin and Shannon in Ireland opened in 2008.
An industry insider told the Press Association that the U.S. was very keen for pre-clearing and it is unlikely that the question of whether officers are armed would be a deal-breaker.
The source said: ‘They are much more concerned about having pre-clearing granted than they are about having their officers walking around like in the U.S.
‘The real challenge is who’s going to pay. The U.S. wants airports to pay for it; airports will say ‘that’s fine’ but then increase charges to airlines.
‘I would imagine airlines would pass on some of that additional cost to flight users,’ he added.
He said if airlines were not prepared to foot the bill then the plan may not happen.