Armed US immigration officers at British airports

britBangla desk : British holidaymakers visiting the US could be hit with higher air fares and extra security before boarding flights, under new plans for armed US immigration officers to be stationed at UK airports.

The change, which would see transatlantic passengers clearing immigration formalities before boarding an aircraft, is being discussed in Washington and Whitehall with officials understood to be negotiating over the practicalities.

Under the plans airlines could be forced to pay for US security staff and their families to live in the UK, meaning they are likely to pass these extra costs onto passengers travelling from Britain to the US.

Passengers are also likely to be asked to leave more time between turning up at airports before flights, as they will have to undergo questioning by US security in addition to usual checks.

Two airports are already understood to be interested in the programme – Manchester and Edinburgh. Others, including Heathrow, are reported to believe the practicalities of bringing American immigration officers into the airport are insuperable. Gatwick said it has “no plans” to participate in the scheme.

Washington has been keen to station immigration officers abroad for some time. It already has teams at Dublin and Shannon Airports in Ireland.

For passengers, the scheme would enable them to avoid some of the horrendous immigration delays which have been commonplace at US airports. This is because they would be treated as if they had taken a domestic flight when they arrived in the United States.

In turn, Washington believes that screening passengers before they boarded the aircraft would improve US security. John Kelly, the current Secretary of Homeland Security and Jeh Johnson, his predecessor in the Obama administration, have both publicly voiced their desire to extend the programme to other countries.

However, a number of sticking points have emerged which suggest that it could take up to five years before US immigration officers are seen on British soil. Any agreement between a UK airport and the US Department of Homeland Security would require Whitehall approval. There is also the issue of who would pay for the immigration officers and their families to be stationed in Britain.

Washington is keen for the bill to be picked up by airports and airlines – who would be expected to pay higher landing charges to cover the cost, which could be added to the price of the ticket. There is also the issue of whether the immigration officers would be armed. It is standard practice in the US, but it is unlikely this would be considered acceptable in the UK.

The Americans would also have to be satisfied with the security arrangements at the terminal where their officers are deployed. In Dublin passengers not only clear Irish airport security, but face a second check by officials from the Transportation Security Administration before being allowed on board. This is also understood to also be a sticking point.

One option would entail creating separate facilities for US flights, but this would entail considerable expense in reconfiguring an airport terminal or building a new one for US flights.#Soure#theTelegraph#