Dover: French border officers 'didn't turn up to work' says MP
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MP Natalie Elphicke has blamed French border staff for delays at Dover which are causing tourist and freight traffic to be stuck on gridlocked roads heading into the port. Holidaymakers embarking on cross-Channel sailings from Dover must pass through border checks before they can board a ferry to France, but Ms Elphicke has pinned the blame for delays not on Brexit but on French officials failing to turn up for shifts.
Ms Elphicke told BBC News: Well, this is the busiest holiday getaway weekend, everyone has been planning really hard for it to try and make sure that we haven’t got the sort of delays that have now occurred.
“What’s happened is quite simply, the French border officers, they didn’t turn up to work.
“They were supposed to be fully manning all of the passport control boobs to meet the holiday surge, and they didn’t.
“So that’s why we’ve got these huge delays, and that’s why we’re seeing people stuck in traffic when they should be on their way to enjoy a much-deserved get-away break.”
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The chief executive of the Port of Dover has described being “let down” by poor resourcing at the French border as “immensely frustrating”, as travellers faced lengthy queues at the beginning of their summer getaway.
Doug Bannister stopped short of guaranteeing the backlog would clear in the coming days, but pledged that officials are doing all they can to address issues.
A “critical incident” has been declared by the Kent port due to six-hour queues, with tourists urged to consider staying away.
The Port said resources at the French border increased on Friday morning and traffic was slowly beginning to move, “but it will take some time to clear the backlog”.
Dover: Long queues as holidaymakers head to France
Mr Bannister said the port had shared “granular detail” on an “hour-by-hour basis” about the amount of traffic it was expecting, in a bid to avoid such disruption.
Apologising for the situation on Friday – one of the busiest periods for foreign travel from the UK as most schools in England and Wales break up for summer – he said they had been “let down” by French authorities.
He told BBC News: “I am so sorry that the travellers we have going to the port today are being impacted.
“To be let down in the way that we have with inadequate resources and slow processes through the border is just immensely frustrating.
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“We’ve shared in granular detail, on an hour-by-hour basis, the amount of traffic we were anticipating, so it was completely known what we needed to have in place at the French border.”
He said Saturday is also likely to be busy, adding it is “just the start of a very busy summer for us”.
Asked whether he can reassure travellers planning a trip over the coming days that the backlog will ease, he said: “I really wish I could – we’re putting all the attention we possibly can do on ensuring there will be enough resources in place to manage this very busy first weekend of the summer.”
In a statement on Friday afternoon, the port said it was urging the UK Government to “continue working with French counterparts” to “adequately resource the border” throughout the summer to “keep our community clear, to get families on their holidays and to keep essential trade moving”.
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