Report from 18th June 2011
Did you know that autumn officially starts in July? Well it does to HMRC it appears.
Yesterday I was on a coach trip to Adinkerke and I had mentioned to one of our drivers the document you linked to “Tackling Tobacco Smuggling – building on our success”. I had asked our driver if he was aware of the new MILs and if so, how it would affect the company’s trips, which they run every month.
Our driver hadn’t heard about it and I offered to email a copy to the company, which I was going to do this morning, however, darker forces were at work.
When we pulled into the Channel Tunnel UKBA holding pen, the driver asked the officers if they would like the passengers to just go through passport control or if they needed to take all their tobacco through too. The Customs wanted the latter, so everyone collected up their tobacco and dutifully filed into the passport control.
And here is where the fun started. EVERYBODY on the coach was questioned, 50 people, a large proportion of which were pensioners. We had to stand and queue for ages while they checked every bag and questioned every passenger on the usual questions (I was prepared having read your site). At least 3 elderly travellers were held on one side for further questioning, elderly people with trouble walking were made to stand in line and wait their turn to be grilled for over half an hour (standing not grilling).
While we were waiting, two more coaches pulled in behind us, one from France, and one from Germany. The passengers on the French and German coaches were herded through passport control, one or two bless them joined the back of our queue, only to be told, very politely by customs officers, that they did not need to queue and that they should just carry on through.
They didn’t even need passports to get into the UK, a variety of photocard driving licences, ID cards and passports, and just about anything with a picture on were presented for scanning and they were through, unlike our British travellers who had to have an up to date British passport. These visitors, holidaymakers, were not even required to take their luggage off their coaches. They were processed quickly by UKBA and on their way in less time than it took for us to stand in line for questioning.
The usual question of where had we been was asked to every passenger to my knowledge, now come on, the coach driver probably told them we had been to Adinkerke, they must know that a coach full of people cannot have one person divert on their own to somewhere different.
As far as I am aware, even after all the theatre (scaremongering and putting the fear of God into elderly people), nobody had their goods seized. A few however were issued with the guideline leaflets and at least one was told he must not return for 6 months (he had last made a trip in April).
Now, back to autumn beginning in July. As we waited for our fellow travellers, the coach driver told me that the thing I had been on about (new MILs), he had been told in the border post will start in July, isn’t that good for the holiday season?
So, there you have it, it appears they are having a field day with British travellers, however if you are a European citizen (even though we too are supposedly Europeans), you can waltz in without let or hindrance. So nice to be considered an undesirable in my own country.