CHENNAI: Everything might be falling into place for the new airport terminals to open its doors to the public, in June, but international passengers have a standing worry. For over a year now, the Chennai international airport has faced a shortage of immigration staff to handle international entry and exit of passengers. A few weeks ahead of the expected grand opening, new staff are yet to be seen, according to airport sources. “We had been told that the state would be providing 50 new cadre for training to join immigration services in January, but that is yet to happen,” said an Airports Authority of India official.
The problem has been brewing for a while, as outgoing airport director EP Hareendranathan had written to the authorities for additional staff last November. The same problem was raised last month before the AAI Chairman VP Agrawal and the Director General of Civil Aviation Bharath Bhushan. They assured that they would make the necessary recommendations and ensure that Chennai’s new terminals would have “adequate immigration staff”.
Despite the international traffic remaining more or less static this year, it is inevitable that this will increase. After all, the airport will be moving from terminals that could support nine million passengers to 13 million passengers now. Compared to the 100 odd officers who have been deployed in shifts now, at least “double” the number of people will be required, as immigration staff themselves estimate.
For their part, immigration officials say the sheer number of fake passport cases they handle - about three to four a day on average, their arrest, investigation and recording - keeps their hands full. Routine immigration work takes a hit with such low number of staff workers, rued an officer at midnight, the most busy time for them.