Now French are blamed for passports ‘meltdown’ too! Priti Patel faces pressure to axe Paris-based firm accused of causing queue chaos outside passport offices as 550,000 wait for new documents
- Insiders slated Teleperformance, which runs Passport Office’s contact services
- People ‘turning up at offices in their droves’ after getting ‘bad service’ from firm
- British ministers were warned about problems at the firm more than a month ago
- The French have been blamed by some politicians for the huge delays at Dover
Priti Patel is coming under pressure to axe a French multinational accused of fuelling queues outside passport offices – as scores of people were pictured waiting outside a processing centre in London this morning.
Paris-based private firm Teleperformance – which was handed a £22.8million contract to run the plagued Passport Office’s customer services operations – was missing targets for dealing with calls and emails as long ago as May 2021.
Official documents show a review highlighted the company’s ‘unsatisfactory’ performance and need for improvement to Ms Patel and other ministers last summer.
The report found that its running of Home Office contact centre services ‘did not meet threshold levels and was unsatisfactory’ by several measures. Instead the situation deteriorated further, with Teleperformance accused of worsening the backlog by providing wrong and unhelpful advice.
By October its performance rating on answering calls and emails promptly had fallen further to ‘inadequate’, according to a subsequent audit.
Long queues at the HM Passport Office in Victoria, central London, this morning
Priti Patel was warned about the company’s failings more than a year ago, it emerged today
It recently emerged 550,000 Britons were waiting for new passports at the end of June – with 10 per cent of applications having been stuck in the system for more than 10 weeks.
Today saw more long queues forming outside the Passport Office in Victoria, central London.
Although Teleperformance does not process passports, a whistleblower said people were turning up at passport offices ‘in their droves’ after getting a ‘bad service’ from the helpline, leaving other staff working for the service to deal with the fallout.
‘By the time customers come to us they’re saying they’ve been cut off, had the phone put down on them, been told they’ll just have to wait for someone to get in touch and then no one gets in touch. They’re really angry,’ they told the Observer.
The whistleblower added that the ‘sheer volume’ of applications combined with staffing pressures meant workers processing the documents ‘just can’t get through them all’.
Chairman of the home affairs committee Dame Diana Johnson MP last week urged the Home Office to review its five year contract with Teleperformance.
She said the helpline run by the firm, which failed to turn up to given evidence in front of parliament last week, was ‘one of the biggest frustrations cited by applications’.
Paris-based private firm Teleperformance was missing targets for dealing with calls and emails as long ago as May 2021
The revelation comes amid a deepening crisis at the Passport Office with more than half a million Brits at risk of being unable to travel for holidays, funerals and emergencies due to the delays.
Parliament was told last week that around 50,000 have been waiting more than ten weeks for their passports, with 550,000 applications in the system in June.
The understaffed office has struggled with the deluge of passport applications after the pandemic.
Teleperformance UK said: ‘Over the past months, Teleperformance has worked with its client to handle an unprecedented surge in volumes and our current service levels have significantly improved.’
Although Teleperformance does not process passports, a whistleblower said people were turning up at passport offices ‘in their droves’ after getting a ‘bad service’ from the helpline, leaving other staff working for the service to deal with the fallout
The French have also been blamed in some quarters for huge delays for tourists and lorry drivers at Dover.
Former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt today suggested France was punishing Britain for Brexit.
He suggested the French were being over-officious with stamping the passports of every traveller using ferries from Dover and the Eurotunnel terminal at Folkestone.
EXPOSED: The gang peddling forged UK passports online for £3,500 with the crooks boasting a ‘super price and super-fast’ service
Tom Kelly, Investigations Editor for the Daily Mail
Crooks are selling sophisticated fake British passports online for £3,500, the Daily Mail can reveal.
The racket boasts a ‘super price and super-fast’ service.
Gangs use pictures of the Queen and Buckingham Palace on social media to advertise passports which include ‘high quality’ bio- metric chips needed to pass UK border controls. Forgeries feature watermarks, holograms and fluorescent security features visible only under ultraviolet lights during checks at airport scanners.
The UK-based agent for one gang offered a Mail undercover reporter a counterfeit British passport for £3,500 and an EU passport – which could also be used for illegal entry here – for £2,000. He said: ‘A lot of people came this way. Whatever you like. You like French? You like British? You like Italian? Everything.’
One passport forger advertises through videos on TikTok – some with more than 17,000 views – showing a cartoon Queen winking. A message in Albanian says: ‘Anyone interested in European passports suitable for crossing to England get in contact.’
The Mail reporter – posing as someone hoping to get relatives into the UK – contacted the gang boss ‘Nic’ who laughed and gave a thumbs-up during a video call from his home in Albania.
Forgery boss: Albania-based ‘Nic’ laughed and gave a thumbs-up during a video call from his home in Albania
An advert for the fake passports shows a cartoon Queen winking. A message in Albanian says: ‘Anyone interested in European passports suitable for crossing to England get in contact’
He put our reporter in touch with his cousin, who said he now lives in Birmingham after arriving on a fake passport. He said: ‘I had the same passport and now I’m in the UK.’ He added that his cousin in Albania was a ‘serious’ operator and had made fake passports which contained biometric chips to ensure they would pass security scanners. He explained: ‘In the mini-chip you have all the information – your name, nationality, date of birth, how tall you are, surname.’
He sent videos of his cousin making the passports.
Another forger advertises ‘the newest passports on the market with all security elements’ via a group on messaging service Telegram. Posts include a video of a woman’s fake UK passport being made and scanned via a computer, with a caption: ‘English passport with super high quality chips and data that shows up in the system.’
FRAUDLENT BANK ACCOUNTS ON SALE FOR £950
A gang charges up to £950 to set up fraudulent UK bank accounts for illegal migrants. It advertises in videos posted on an Albanian language TikTok page called ‘bank card UK’. Some have been viewed more than 50,000 times.
Promising ‘bank cards for all Albanians in the UK without documentation’, the site also offers fake ID, utility bills, bank statements, payslips and landlord references. Illegal immigrants are banned from opening a bank account in this country.
An undercover journalists posing as a customer who messaged the TikTok account was sent a UK mobile phone number to call. The man he subsequently spoke to said, for those without identification, he could arrange accounts with several banks, including Santander for £950. He also offers a Barclays account for £350, though for this the customer has to supply a passport.
A TikTok spokesman said ‘This content has no place on TikTok.’
A spokesman for UK Finance, the banking trade association, said: ‘Banks follow strict regulations when opening any new accounts and carry out detailed identification and verification checks.
The gang told the undercover reporter that UK passports are at a premium and sell for £3,500, plus delivery charges. The crooks are selling European passports for £2,000 – and said fake Slovenian versions are popular.
In one video, a gang member posted a picture of a fake Slovenian passport and a boarding pass in the same name for a Ryanair flight from Spain to Stansted on December 31, with the comment: ‘New Year’s offer.’ The gang’s ‘customer’ said his passport had been carefully checked at the airport, including with a computer scan, but it ‘turned out OK’.
Other posts show clients’ boarding passes and fake documents used to fly into Leeds and Manchester.
The main operation is based in Albania, where the passports are made, but the group sell to clients from around the world.
When the Mail contacted the crooks posing as a potential customer based in the UK hoping to get a relative here from Spain, we were directed to their British-based agent. The man, who gave his name as ‘Jimmy’, told the reporter in a call via WhatsApp he first entered the UK ten years ago using a fake passport and now lives in Luton.
He gave a step-by-step guide on how to use a false document.
The gang also advertises fake UK driving licences and British visas. It said it could produce birth, marriage and Covid certificates.
Another group, entitled pasport.idcard.albania with more than 3,000 followers, posts videos showing a plane to England and footage of a fake passport stating: ‘Passage to England with international passports, super price, super fast. Contact.’ And an Instagram page features pictures with a message in the biography saying: ‘We offer top quality passports, ID cards or EU driving licences for going to the UK or to use in the EU.’
It offers packages including an ID card and driving licence for £800 and a passport, ID card and driving licence for as low as £2,000. It adds: ‘Documents are high quality… produced in Ireland.’
The fake passports can avoid detection when swiped at immigration because it is believed they are not automatically checked against a database of genuine passports.
Dr Ben Greening, of Migration Watch UK, said of our revelations: ‘This is shocking confirmation of the sophistication with which criminals are now plying their forgery trade. The idea that someone can buy a counterfeit British passport for £3,500 points to the gaping and widening holes in UK border security. Unless the Government gets serious about delivering tougher law enforcement and about controlling the border, this threat has the potential to grow, with a worsening safety risk for UK families.’
Security: False passports are said to include crucial ID details which show up under UK scans
The National Crime Agency has warned that fake identity documents that allow hardened crooks to slip into the country undetected are a ‘key enabler’ of crime in Britain. Recent figures revealed that almost 2,000 fraudulent identity documents used to try to enter the UK are discovered by Border Force every year.
TikTok removed and permanently banned the sites after being alerted by the Mail. A spokesman said: ‘Criminal activity has no place on TikTok. Our community guidelines prohibit any content that depicts, promotes or enables illegal activities. Any content found to be in violation of these policies will be removed immediately and action will be taken against… accounts.’
A Passport Office spokesman said: ‘The production of fake passports is a crime and those who attempt to cheat the system will face the full consequences of the law. We are aware criminals use social media to sell fraudulent items and we expect companies to crack down and remove them.’
Our investigation comes after the issue of immigration gripped the Tory leadership contest at the weekend. It also emerged last week that shocking blunders had allowed hundreds of Channel migrants to vanish without trace, prompting security fears. Serious failures in the way arrivals were processed at Dover meant that in many cases their identities had not been properly logged.
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