New immigration checks starting on April 8th may cause queues stretching five miles back, ferry companies at Dover have warned. For anyone who is struggling to imagine a five mile queue it is roughly 650 cars.
Why the Home Office is bound to encounter problems
The expected chaos at ferry port terminals is due to new immigration checks for every person leaving Britain, part of a pledge by David Cameron in the 2010 Conservative manifesto to check every passenger coming into and leaving the country.
Most of the main political parties are trying to be seen to be "anti-Immigration" in the hope of gaining more votes at the general election on 7 May. However, it seems that the Conservative's haste to implement the new measures is likely to cause them some serious problems.
Theresa May, speaking at the Commons home affairs select committee, admitted as much when she said: "We can put contingency plans in place if there are public order problems," speaking on the fact that the Home Secretary has yet to make a decision on whether there are to be any exemptions from the checks.
What the figures tell us about the immigration checks
Unsurprisingly, ferry companies such as P&O Ferries as well as shipping trade association the UK Chamber of Shipping have decided to speak out about the implementation of the new measures.
Tim Reardon, policy director for the UK Chamber of Shipping, told MPs: "It would remain to be seen whether ministerial indifference to long queues on the A20 and the A2 would endure when faced with recurrent dislocation of the civil life of Kent and with the wider economic damage that would ensue from the blockage of the UK's main trade route into Europe."
A spokesperson for P&O Ferries added: "coachloads of little old ladies could end up bearing the brunt of this."
It isn't hard to see why everyone is so concerned about the new security checks. Research conducted by the UK Chamber of Shipping revealed that the average check-in time for tourist cars will almost double; Check-in time for freight traffic will increase by up to a third. The results show that when 7,500 or more cars turn up for ferries at the Dover terminals queues consisting of 650 cars could be a real possibility.
To put it into perspective on the busiest day of last summer, with the new immigration checks and an extra four thousand cars, the traffic would have extended as far back as Folkestone – From Folkestone to Dover ferry terminal it is a ten mile journey.
What the outcome is expected to be
The outcome of chaotic queues seems even more likely after James Brokenshire, the immigration minister, told BBC Radio Four that: "on busy days… it's advisable for anyone to set out earlier."
Although he did add that he has been working with ferry companies to try and reduce delays caused by the new checks. He also said that there were contingency plans in place.
Conservative anti-immigration laws having an adverse effect
These new checks may turn out to be very unpopular. Time will tell but the Conservative party could well lose votes because of some of their "populist" immigration policies.