Cross-channel operators have warned travellers to prepare for long delays from this week following the introduction of passport checks for people leaving the country.
Ferry companies, along with Euro Tunnel, have warned the checks, introduced by the Government in order to monitor more closely the movement of people across our borders, raise the prospect of long queues for coach and car travellers.
P&O Ferries warned: “Coachloads of little old ladies could end up bearing the brunt of this.”
The new checks were delayed for a week to avoid the Easter weekend and will be phased in from Wednesday, following a promise by David Cameron that they would be in place by the general election.
Ministers say checking people’s passport on exit will provide important information, such as whether people have overstayed their visas or entered the UK illegally.
The new rules mean ferry companies will eventually have to scan every passport to provide an electronic record of an individual’s departure, which will be sent to the Home Office.
James Brokenshire, the immigration minister, said: “Exit checks will provide us with vital information that confirms a person’s exit from the UK. The coalition government committed to reintroducing them in 2010 and the Immigration Act 2014 put in place legislation which gave carrier and port staff the power to carry out these checks.”
But the cross-channel operators have said the checks will create a huge headache for both them and their passengers.
A spokesman for P&O said: “All this is going to take time. The approaches to the port of Dover can get extremely busy at peak holiday times and we are concerned that the queues are going to get worse once these checks are introduced. We have been working with the Home Office to bring these checks in. We are advising passengers to have their passports ready when they present themselves at check-in.”
The spokesman added: “We have been asked to do these checks by the Government but we are expected to supply the equipment. We are doing this voluntarily but we have been told that if we don’t do it, it will be imposed on us anyway.”
John Keefe, Eurotunnel’s public affairs director, said: “On a peak holiday, when we have got the family, we have got all the children, we have got the granddads in the car as well – five, six, seven, nine people in a people carrier – that takes a long time per vehicle. We are going to get queues all the way up this road. That’s the risk.”