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The hostile environment?

February 27, 2020

About 14 months ago I posted a piece about the UK “Border Force”, in which I lamented that the organisation that employs the people responsible for greeting entrants to the United Kingdom have ceased to be a “service”, and are now a force.

I wrote that:

“I fear that once the old-timers have retired, we’ll be left with a “Force” of officials whose personalities are defined by their uniforms, and whose model of best practice is that of the shaven-headed hominids who think their mission is to keep America safe from child migrants, Muslims and Mexican drug mules.”

From “Oi you – welcome to the United Kingdom.” December 2018

Travelling through Heathrow yesterday there was a mercifully short line through the e-gates. But looking over to the booths staffed by the Border Force, it’s hard not to believe that my fears are becoming reality.

Not the hominid bit, because I didn’t get to interact with them so that I could gauge their progression from human to terminator. Nonetheless, the paunchy, comfortable-looking folks who manned the booths in times gone by seem to have gone.

The six guards I saw looked identical. All male. Aged 30-50. Fit, trim, each with shiny bald pates that did an excellent job of reflecting Terminal 5’s rather inadequate lighting. Black uniforms signalling serious intent. Ready to leap over their desks to confront the bad guys.

For all I know, they were pussy cats in uniform. However, that was not my experience last time I encountered one of them, as I described in the earlier post. Their shiny black uniforms are the work of the last female Home Secretary, one Theresa May. But given the reputation that Priti Patel, the current incumbent, is fast acquiring for bullying authoritarianism, I would say that the men in black are very much her style as well.

It’s ironic that when you arrive in Stockholm, as we did on our way home, you’re greeted by photos of eminent Swedes – artists, writers, athletes, airport workers and so on – most of them smiling. Whereas at Heathrow, once you’ve run the gauntlet of our diligent Border Force, the most striking image that awaits you is that of a glowering soldier in a bearskin. Goodbye EU, welcome to Britain.

It’s hard to escape the impression that this is what a hostile environment looks like. But trust me. It’s all a facade. Honest.

From → Travel, UK

  1. Andrew Robinson permalink

    On our very infrequent returns home to the UK I recognise at immigration that those (including “leading” politicians) accusing the EU of being the 4th Reich/EUSSR are installing a similar system, at the borders for the moment.

    My UK passport stubbornly refuses to work at the e-gates, so I’ve used my French ID card at the manned booths the last two times.

    Weirdly, the UK is what the French call “baba-cool” when it comes to “emigration gates” i.e. there aren’t any……

    No quarantine then?

    • True about emigration. Very strange. Probably down to manpower. I guess they get their exit info from the airlines. I might criticise our lot for many things, but I fail to understand how anyone might think that e-gates are Stalinist. If Uncle Joe was still around, he might have insisted on a function that impregnated certain passports with polonium…

      And no, no quarantine. we’re good so far. S

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