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British families suffer most in Brussels passport checks

British tourists are queuing for up to four hours at airports because of the botched introduction of tougher EU border checks.

Travellers from outside the Schengen free movement zone are being subjected to stricter vetting at passport control.

Instead of a few seconds, the process can now take several minutes. The new regime was drawn up by Brussels after it emerged that terrorists may have used EU passports for atrocities in Paris that claimed 142 lives.

Travellers from outside the Schengen free movement zone are being subjected to stricter vetting at passport control.

Travellers from outside the Schengen free movement zone are being subjected to stricter vetting at passport control.

Airline bosses accuse airports of failing to recruit enough border officials to check passports thoroughly – or upgrade their computer systems in time for the holiday season.

They say queues of ‘hundreds of metres’ have been seen in some terminals. Passengers complain of being treated like cattle and being ‘punished’ by the EU. Britain is not one of the 26 members of the Schengen zone, which allows passport-free travel.

The worst affected airports include Palma de Mallorca, Lisbon, Madrid, Paris-Orly, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Milan and Brussels. The European Commission showed little sympathy yesterday, describing the holdups as ‘the price for security’.

EU officials have, however, watered down the rules at ports and road borders – potentially allowing in terrorists. Guards can suspend systematic checking of EU passports at peak times where there might be a ‘disproportionate impact on traffic flows’.

Last night a passenger tweeted from Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam: ‘Schengen passport control queue – four hours.’

Edward Vallory tweeted from Barcelona, where delays reached three hours: ‘Endless queues for access to airport.’ One passenger said a flight from Lisbon left while 20 passengers were still at passport control.

Shuffling at a snail's pace: Passengers queue at Palma Airport on July 14 as staff struggle

Shuffling at a snail's pace: Passengers queue at Palma Airport on July 14 as staff struggle

Hundreds of British holidaymakers have endured lengthy waits at Palma airport, as seen here on July 29

Hundreds of British holidaymakers have endured lengthy waits at Palma airport, as seen here on July 29

Hundreds of British holidaymakers endured an hour-long wait at Palma airport following a flight from Bristol.

The delay was caused by a shortage of airport border guards; just four officers had to process the passports of at least 215 passengers. Delays of up to two hours were reported at the weekend.

Connor Aston, who was flying from the airport on Monday, said: ‘There were four guys standing in only one booth at passport control. I felt they were punishing the UK residents and had a very abrupt attitude.’ 

One passenger Nicki Gillon, 36, from Manchester, saw people fainting at Palma. She said: ‘There were around 2,000 people waiting to go through immigration. People were collapsing, there was no air conditioning in the tunnel. It was just crazy.’

A British tourist said of Paris-Orly: ‘Just queued for 1.10hrs at passport control. Only two immigration officers. Departure now delayed waiting for people in the queue. Totally unacceptable.’

This was the scene at Palma airport in Majorca month after the new checks were brought in

This was the scene at Palma airport in Majorca month after the new checks were brought in

The new checks apply to those flying between non-Schengen countries and other members of the EU which are inside Schengen. Whereas previously most travellers would be waved through at passport control, border staff now have to run checks against the Schengen Information System and Interpol’s database. 

This can take up to two minutes, with queues of up to four hours reported at airports such as Amsterdam, according to Airlines for Europe. The lobby

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