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UK checks miss terror suspects

Inexperienced airport staff ‘missed five alerts in one day’, fears arise after fiasco over stewarding.

india Updated: Jul 16, 2012 01:14 IST

Terror suspects on the Britain’s Home Office watch list are entering the UK in the runup to the Olympics without the necessary security checks, according to frontline officials at Heathrow.

One senior border officer told the Observer that inexperienced new recruits, deployed to shorten queues after complaints over lengthy waiting times, are repeatedly “missing” passengers of interest who should be referred to counterterrorism officers when they reach passportcontrol.

The official said he was personally aware that three terror suspects – all of whose names are registered on the Home Office suspect index system – had been waved through by staff on his shifts since the start of July. Border officials should immediately notify counterterrorism police or MI5 if they suspect that "SX travellers" are attempting to enter the UK. Another colleague alleged that five suspects were "missed" in one day earlier this month.

"It's all new faces," said the senior official. "The rest of the staff, I have no idea where they have come from, how long they are here for, what their background is. These are people who have been forced by their own department to come here."

The crisis comes days after G4S, the world’s biggest security firm, announced it could not provide enough security guards for the Olympics, forcing the government to call up 3,500 troops to meet the shortfall. Last month John Evans, head of MI5, said the Games offered an “attractive target for our enemies, and they will be at the centre of the world’s attention".

The intelligence and security committee also warned that the Olympics had diverted MI5, MI6 and GCHQ from other potential threats to Britain, citing the “vulnerability of the UK at this critical period”. It identified potential sources of threat including al-Qaeda and its affiliates planning an attack on the Games or participants, especially US or Israeli nationals, and also the possible threat from republican dissident terrorist groups.

First Published: Jul 15, 2012 23:48 IST