7

I just (half an hour ago) entered the UK at Stansted airport, and the EEA queue at immigration was absolutely packed (it would have taken at least an hour to get through), whereas the non-EEA queue was all but empty (only one person, although a problem case, was being processed in front of me)

When I got to the officer, the following convo took place:

IO: You're Swedish mate

Me: Yeah I know, this queue was just much emptier.

IO: Well this is for non-EU people.

Me: I know, but there's no one behind me anyway, so I thought I'd just dash through.

IO: Well, don't do this again. This is for non-EU people - you have to go in the EU queue, every time.

Me: Heh, alright.

(IO hands back my ID and sends me on my way)

Is is true that I must use the EEA queue, or was the IO simply having a bad day? According to a Flyertalk user:

It is very rare (in my experience) for the non-EU lines to be emptier than the EU lines. But if they are indeed emptier, then there is no rule or otherwise that I am aware of that would enable the immigration officer to turn you away or make you go to the EU line. If that happens, I would seriously raise this with the chief immigration officer.

UPDATE: Second time just now, this time getting it on video. Regret not telling him why he misunderstood the meaning of being subject to immigration control. Guess I didn't want to drag it out further. Now I'll definitely write a letter to the Border Force and ask for clarification regarding this.

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    Queue etiquette mate. I have seen people being allowed, but in Eurostar queues and not at the airport. But non-EU are never processed in the EU queue either in Eurostar or at the airport. – DumbCoder Jan 16 '17 at 9:11
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    The UK is not in the Schengen area and it's allowed to make its own rules but interestingly in the Schengen area, this is explicitly allowed (article 10 of the Borders Code) and the "non-EU" lane is in fact labelled "all passports" (the Borders Code also provide for a third type of lanes, "no visa required", which I have never seen personally; you are allowed to use those as well). – Relaxed Jan 16 '17 at 9:14
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    You can use either queue. The IO you spoke with was likely annoyed because you made more work for him. Ignore it. Or speak with the duty CIO, or whatever. OH! Your citation from Flyertalk matches my comment almost exactly. I like that. – Gayot Fow Jan 16 '17 at 9:17
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    @GayotFow I've been at Manchester a couple of times recently, where they were very insistent (to the point of dragging people off who didn't comply) that anybody who could use the automatic gates did. – CMaster Jan 16 '17 at 9:38
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    @CMaster indeed, facial recognition is a different can of worms. They are desperate to show cost/benefit to the Home Affairs Committee in the cycle and usage stats will help in that regard. – Gayot Fow Jan 16 '17 at 9:55
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Compiling comments into an answer:

  1. First hand experience of this being allowed in Eurostar queues.

  2. You can use either queue. The IO you spoke with was likely annoyed because you made more work for him. Ignore it. Or speak with the duty CIO. (per comments above).

See also the Chief Inspector's report "An inspection of border control at Manchester Airport"

See also Ministerial Statement on E-Borders

Related answer saying the same thing but covering more scenarios: Non-EU citizen travelling to UK with EU citizen friend, which queue to use?

Related answer regarding non-EU family members and queues: Which queue for a EU/non-EU couple travelling through UK Immigration Control together?

Yet another related answer: Other passports queue arriving in UK?

Vaguely related (i.e., no queue): What happens when someone inadvertently enters the UK without a landing interview?

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