Airlines could face fines of up to £50,000 each time they allow a passenger to skip necessary UK immigration checks, as part of a major crackdown on border security.
According to Home Office, around 1,000 travellers bypass Border Force officers every tear as a result of errors on the part of either the airline or the airport.
Now, however, the government department is consulting on new proposals to impose a civil penalty regime in a bid to minimise the risk of travellers erroneously being directed away from border control when they arrive in Britain.
According to the Home Office, these “misdirections” often occur because incorrect doors have been opened at the arrivals gate or staff from the airline or airport have sent passengers to the wrong place when they leave the aircraft.
In response to the announcement, the Airport Operators Association (AOA) has argued that the plans are a “disproportionate” response, stating that they do not believe the civil penalty should be used to tackle the problem.
A spokesperson added: “It is disproportionate, given the numbers of passengers involved and the industry’s track record in this area combined with our commitment to continue to improve.”
However, while the Home Office has acknowledged that this particular issue is not related to deliberate attempts of passengers to bypass border checks, it added that the process of tracking these travellers down retrospectively places a significant administrative burden on Border Force.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are determined to eradicate these errors and believe a civil penalty is a vital tool in ensuring this happens.
“We welcome the views of airlines and airport operators on this consultation as we continue to work with them on all areas of security.”