Mistreatment Upon Arrival: the Discriminatory Efforts to ‘Fix’ Heathrow Airport

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July 11, 2012 by Nash Riggins

Immigration Minister Damian Green came under heavy fire yesterday following his announcement that Heathrow airport is set to introduce a new two-tier entry system for international arrivals that will only benefit those from more developed nations.

The new system, which Green maintains should come into effect following the conclusion of London’s Olympic Games, will ensure that visitors from wealthier nations such as the United States, Canada, Australia and Japan are processed and allowed to enter into the UK substantially quicker than those from less developed, non-European nations via a series of ‘fast-track’ desks that only nationals of said international partners are permitted to use.

“If it works, there will be a group of people who will have better experiences at Heathrow,” Green asserted.

Indeed, it cannot be ignored that London Heathrow has developed international infamy by way of its lengthy waiting times imposed upon travellers before receiving clearance to enter the country. In fact, even travellers from rich, UK-friendly nations such as the US have been known to be left waiting in queues at Heathrow for up to two-and-a-half hours – regardless of Home Office directives which state that officials must allow entry to all non-EU passport holders within 45 minutes.

On the surface, this may appear to be an empty concern for most; after all, don’t such inconveniences merely ensure that an appropriate level of security is upheld? Yet according to industry officials, security is simply no excuse for the intense delays at Heathrow.

“There isn’t a trade-off between strong border security and a good passenger experience,” said one BAA spokeswoman. “The Home Office should be delivering both.”

True enough, customer service is rarely factored into the trivial equation posed by the efficiency levels at immigration points. Westminster has argued for quite some time that the less-than warm welcomes being provided to international arrivals at Heathrow should be pegged as an international embarrassment; however, many of those same MPs are now arguing that Green’s two-tier entry solution is utterly discriminatory.

Indeed, the Immigration Minister’s list of nations that will qualify for new fast-track lanes are not necessarily representative of the majority of footfall within the International Arrivals terminal. In fact, the International Passenger Survey indicates that Indian passport holders account for an overwhelming majority of around 12% of daily non-EU arrivals in Heathrow – with nationals of Pakistan coming in second with around 6%. What’s more, Australia is the one and only nation from Mr Green’s list of fast-track passport holders that even makes an appearance in the top five most common non-EU national arrivals in Heathrow.

Given this revelation, it should be fairly understandable why Mr Green has been accused of wanting to discourage nationals of poorer countries from visiting the UK – after all, what other reason could there be as to Mr Green’s discriminatory decision? Well, BNP supporters will be disappointed to hear that any discriminatory policy that Green may have established should be considered incidental; however, that doesn’t mean it’s any less offensive.

In effect, this plan stands to treat First World, mainly white, middle-class travellers as superior to those arriving from less fortunate countries – meanwhile, Third-World nationals will be instantaneously treated as third-class citizens for no particular reason other than as a result of the financial prowess of their home country. That being said, is having to wait in line for an hour longer than someone else the social injustice of the century? Probably not; however, such a blatant example of differential treatment based solely upon economic background is definitely not the way to go about introducing one’s nation to the world – especially if it’s a mere 15 minutes after touching down.

On the other hand, it appears that Green’s fast-track plan for developed nations is not geared at discouraging poorer visitors from frequenting the UK, but rather as an ill-advised gamble in order to secure a reciprocal privilege for UK passport holders abroad. Indeed, not only are Green’s fast-track nations among the UK’s most influential, non-EU trading partners, but they are also among UK travellers’ top destinations. Surveys indicate that Australia and the USA are among UK-nationals’ top emigration destinations, and also account for the majority of outbound non-EU flights. Therefore, taking this into account, it appears that Mr Green and his office have formulated said plan in the hopes that the immigration services of Heathrow’s ‘fast-track’ nations will reciprocate by substantially easing the entry of UK citizens into their own borders.

“If it has benefits for other British citizens as well, then absolutely we would be interested in pursuing that,” Green admitted to a particularly-perturbed Home Affairs Select Committee yesterday.

Yet if this was indeed the motivation behind Mr Green’s incidental slap in the face to all non-developed nations, perhaps he should have thought twice. Although some extended level of convenience could most likely be bought for UK travellers in Canada or Japan, the idea that US borders would relax their security for anyone is laughable at best – after all, even those visiting America for few short hours must pay a non-refundable fee and fill out an online application form just to be considered for entry. American borders are as open today as they ever will be – therefore, Mr Green’s brown-nosing will have counted for naught in the eyes of America’s Homeland Security and TSA, and so the reasoning behind his proposal should be ruled out accordingly.

On paper, the UK is one of the most politically-correct nations in contemporary world history; however, a quick wander throughout almost any village nationwide would reveal an atmosphere that is substantially harsher and more offensive to immigrants and travellers than Westminster would care to admit. Indeed, such necessity to point out and alienate all those who are different (racially, religiously, financially or otherwise) is unfortunately inherent of the human condition – and as a result, can never be truly conquered. That being said, any and every action by the UK government which lends any credibility whatsoever to such judgments only paves the way towards creating a nation that is openly unwelcoming to foreigners, and is therefore completely unacceptable.

If Damian Green truly believes that all citizens of the world possess equal rights – regardless of nationality or economic background – then why the hell can’t those citizens wait in the same queue as equals? Nobody likes standing in lines, but that’s the way that airports work – and if the Minister of Immigration would truly like to find a solution to the numerous inefficiencies of Heathrow airport, he might do well to dig a bit deeper than merely creating fast-track lanes for nationals of his favourite holiday destinations.

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