Delays at Holyhead raise concerns about possible Brexit impact
Anti-trafficking work by UK immigration officials saw some waiting over an hour at port
A file photograph of trucks waiting for a ferry to Dublin in Holyhead, Wales last October. File image: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images.
There were traffic delays for cars, coaches and lorries leaving Holyhead port in Wales on Friday due to checks carried out by UK border immigration officials targeting human trafficking.
Tailbacks were reported for vehicles disembarking the Irish Ferries and Stena Line ferries arriving into the port from Dublin on Friday morning due to the combination of checks by UK Border Force officials and the closure of an exit lane.
John Browne, a sales manager with Wharton’s Travel, said that the immigrations officials were stopping every car at the last checkpoint before the exit and that it took him 40 minutes to leave the port.
One of the company’s coaches arriving on a later ferry took more than an hour to exit as the traffic build-up had worsened with the arrival of more ferries.
Mr Browne said that when he came to the immigration checkpoint, he was asked by an official whether he would “be able to help in the fight against modern-day slavery in the UK?”
“I thought it was a wind-up,” he said.
Two of Mr Wharton’s coaches bringing children from a school in Ardee, Co Louth to visit Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium missed their time-slots for a tour of the ground due to the delays.
There was even greater pressure on congestion at the port due to a large number of Irish coaches heading to a rugby tournament in Wrexham.
Mr Browne said Wharton’s, which specialises group trips to Premier League football matches, would have to look at leaving the day before a game if it was going to avoid future delays.
He raised concerns about what post-Brexit immigration checks would mean for Irish schoolchildren with Polish, Latvian and Lithuanian names traveling to games even with Common Travel Area arrangements to protect the free movement of people between Ireland and Britain.
The Border Force checks were said to be a routine operation aimed at detecting and tackling human trafficking and modern slavery and not related to the UK’s exit from the EU, which was postponed from yesterday to October 31st.
A UK Home Office spokesman said that Border Force had a network of trained safeguarding and modern slavery teams based in all regions.
The offers were “operational and are on hand to ensure children and vulnerable people, including potential victims of modern slavery, are dealt with effectively,” said the spokesman.
A spokesman for Stena Line Ports, which runs Holyhead, said the delays were a matter for Border Forces.