[OT] customs at Gatwick

Old Jul 1, 06, 6:40 am
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[OT] customs at Gatwick

Coming in from BGI at Gatwick the other morning at 545am there was an army of customs people out at the baggage hall waiting for us to go through.
There must have been at least 20 of them.

Needless to say I was stopped,they were particularally interested in my wet togs which they put through the drugs testing kit.

Now dont get me wrong,I joked a bit with the guy and I'm genuinely appreciative of the job that they have to do.
However I did think the kind of questions he was coming out with were rather OTT.He looked at my Irish passport and wanted to see an airline itinery to know if I was going back to Dublin (I'm a caucasian male with an obvious Irish accent,the passport is machine readable and was scanned already that morning by immigration)...Last I checked travel between the UK and ROI doesnt even need a passport and a drivers licence or picture ID satisfies airlines.

Then he got suspicious of why I would only go to Barbados for 6 days...and wanted to know how long I had the trip planned for...
He also wanted to know why I had 2 departure stamps for Barbados ( we did a daytrip to st Lucia ) .

Anyways all sorted after my bags had been rifled through,it was clear that there was nothing untoward.

Is this the norm ? I'm feeling a tad paranoid now as I'd often take a long weekend CW trip away if I have the money to do it and feel I'm entitled to do this if I like without customs making me feel like I'm up to no good.
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Old Jul 1, 06, 6:44 am
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Hi,

Passing through LGW or LHR when flights from some suspected drug transit areas ( ie AMS for some reason and caribbean/latin america countries the number of officers seems to be larger ( they may have got a tip off about a particular flight) and you were just unlucky to be selected.

Regards

TBS
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Old Jul 1, 06, 6:49 am
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Twenty inspectors? Sounds like your flight could have been targeted by HMCE possibly following a tip off.

Only speculating but I would imagine there must be surveillance measures in place to catch out any passengers arriving off a transatlantic flight and using the EU customs channel.
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Old Jul 1, 06, 6:56 am
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Ah the tip off on something,I didnt think of that.
Thats what it must have been.
Yes there were definitely a good 20 inspectors there,they lined the green exit area and spilled out into the baggage hall.

A tad disconcerting if you had to go through it every time.
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Old Jul 1, 06, 7:13 am
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Originally Posted by Prospero
Only speculating but I would imagine there must be surveillance measures in place to catch out any passengers arriving off a transatlantic flight and using the EU customs channel.
Yes - for the first time the other day (ever), I was stopped at LHR. Coming off the morning BUD flight (first off, through IRIS, past a big passport queue , hand luggage only so merrily striding through towards the Blue channel minding my own business) I looked up and saw about 10 Customs bods standing by all the exits - I figured there must have been a tip off of some kind. As I approached the guy stopped me and asked where I was coming from. Cue a quick moment of panic as I had to think for a second where I was actually coming from that morning (early starts + me = disagreement) He asked if I'd come from anywhere else before BUD and I said no, and with that he left me to go through the Blue line. I thought that some people, off some flight were going to get a going over!
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Old Jul 1, 06, 7:15 am
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I've noticed a higher level of Customs presence recently - and no I haven't been making regular trips in KIN!

Carribbean, Latin Amercia, Africa and AMS all seem to attract special attention - it is only the very early arrivals from Asia that consistently seem to have no visible Customs presence.
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Old Jul 1, 06, 1:54 pm
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I had thought that the unusual level of Customs staff last week (i.e. >0) coming in from AMS was unusual ...
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Old Jul 1, 06, 5:54 pm
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I have seen some flights at LHR and LGW which had an army of customs officers - uniformed and plainclothes - at the gate watching people as they disembarked. That, I assumed, was a specific tip off.

Once at LHR there was similar, complete with a team of sniffer dogs and Spanish officials, for a departing flight to AGP. They were most definitely looking for something very specific.

Best though is the ever so sweet sniffer dog that greets one at the gate when disembarking at HKG.
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Old Jul 1, 06, 8:40 pm
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As all have said, UK customes come out for full inspections of flights arriving from places of high drug traffics into the UK (or EU). I was asked once about my arrival flight and let go around when they were checking a flight arriving from Jamaica. I was arriving from USA. They were hand searching every bag. Prior to that occation, I always wondered why they had so many tables with no staff on sight.

It is similar in France. They only do searches on selected flights. It is not a matter of a tip off... just based on arrival from city.
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Old Jul 2, 06, 1:52 pm
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Not been stopped by Customs for YEARS. I must look very boring and non-descript.

But if I keep polishing the 'John Major' grey look... I'll continue to get out of airports swiftly!
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Old Jul 2, 06, 2:17 pm
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Back in the olden days, I used the BOG-CCS-POS-LHR service a good few times.

One time they made us wait on the aircraft whilst customs officers came on board with dogs, who had a good sniff around, when we got to reclaim we weren't allowed to pick our bags off the carousel until it was pretty much full, they then stopped it and let the dogs run over it again.

I maybe wrong, but the distinct impression I got was a lot of it was for show as there were a number of officers just watching the waiting pax. If you were carrying any Colombian or Caribbean recreational chemicals I suspect you would have been easily spotted.
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Old Jul 2, 06, 2:24 pm
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Once coming in from AMS on our way back from Oz the whole aircraft load was sidetracked into a room and told to sit with our hand luggage at our feet whilst a dog ran around and had a good sniff at us all - it took a particular interest in the rucksack of a young chap!! Don't know if it was a tip off or the AMS thing.
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Old Jul 2, 06, 3:55 pm
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HMCE rely more and more on intelligence these days and almost certainly received the wink from co-operating overseas customs or police officers. A short trip to a long haul destination, if you're not on business or an airline employee, would make the officer's ears prick up as it certainly not usual to travel so far for only 6 days!

However, like most things when dealing with authority, if you haven't done anything wrong and you answer their questions honestly and truthfully, then you have nothing to fear. Don't forget, these guys have been trained to recognise lies and deceit - which betray themselves in body language you can't easily control much more than merely feeling a little uncomfortable.

Don't let them put you off - they're only doing their job!
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Old Jul 3, 06, 6:57 am
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Not only do they use tip offs, they also profile travellers. I don't normally get picked out (<1% over many years), but the one time I did a 6 day itinerary to Aruba, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru and included Amsterdam for good measure (all on legit business ) I did get picked out without hesitation from customs.
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Old Jul 3, 06, 10:14 am
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Originally Posted by bealine
A short trip to a long haul destination, if you're not on business or an airline employee, would make the officer's ears prick up as it certainly not usual to travel so far for only 6 days!
Like the immigration/customs experiences of mileage runners doing same day turnarounds in this thread.
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