Interpol urges tighter passport checks in ASEAN

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security checkGlobal police organisation Interpol has said it is working with Southeast Asian countries to bolster border security amid lapses in immigration checks before Malaysian Air flight MH370 went missing. The discovery that two passengers boarded the missing jet using stolen passports has raised concern about Malaysia’s immigration security practices as the hunt for the plane enters its fourth week with ships and aircraft scouring the Indian Ocean.

More than 40 million passports are listed as missing on a database created by Interpol in 2002, yet planes were boarded about a billion times last year without the travel documents being screened against the register. The two Iranian nationals were able to board the plane in Kuala Lumpur using passports that were reported stolen in Thailand.

“The lesson that we need to learn from these kinds of incidents that happen now is the importance of technology to be accessible to all law enforcement and mainly immigration officers in accessing and integrating all the available police data,” Julia Viedma, Interpol’s director of international partnerships and development, said in an interview with Bloomberg in Singapore on March 26.

The agency is in discussions with partners such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to enhance border security at airports and other checkpoints in some of the countries with some funding from the European Commission, she said. Interpol’s goal is to make the data assessible regardless of the country’s economic status, she said.

“It’s not the idea of if I’m a rich country I’m able to buy myself the technology that I need, if I’m a poor country I’m not able to do it,” Viedma said. “We need to really try to make these differences disappear.”

Passport theft or loss is common in Thailand, with Russian, British and French passports the most commonly reported as missing in 2013, according to data from Thai police. About 2,475 losses were reported from the top 10 nationalities combined, data show.

Lyon, France-based Interpol, has warned since at least 1973 about the increased use of counterfeit passports as international tourism boomed. Criminals have made and used false passports and altered authentic travel documents for uses including for trafficking and smuggling, the agency said.

Only a few countries systematically search Interpol’s databases to determine whether a passenger is using a stolen or lost travel document, the agency said in an earlier statement. More than 800 million searches are conducted annually, and stolen or missing passports are found an average of 60,000 times a year, Interpol said.

The challenge for Interpol is to persuade governments – rather than airlines – to enforce stricter immigration checks when travelers leave their countries, said Philip Baum, managing director at Green Light, a London-based provider of security training and consultancy services.

In most countries, airlines can’t access the Interpol data base, he said, limiting the checks to border security agencies.

“Most immigration authorities around the world are primarily worried about who is coming into their countries, not who is going out,” Baum said. “Immigration authorities tend not to see aviation security as being their responsibility.”

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Global police organisation Interpol has said it is working with Southeast Asian countries to bolster border security amid lapses in immigration checks before Malaysian Air flight MH370 went missing. The discovery that two passengers boarded the missing jet using stolen passports has raised concern about Malaysia’s immigration security practices as the hunt for the plane enters its fourth week with ships and aircraft scouring the Indian Ocean. More than 40 million passports are listed as missing on a database created by Interpol in 2002, yet planes were boarded about a billion times last year without the travel documents being screened...

Reading Time: 2 minutes

security checkGlobal police organisation Interpol has said it is working with Southeast Asian countries to bolster border security amid lapses in immigration checks before Malaysian Air flight MH370 went missing. The discovery that two passengers boarded the missing jet using stolen passports has raised concern about Malaysia’s immigration security practices as the hunt for the plane enters its fourth week with ships and aircraft scouring the Indian Ocean.

More than 40 million passports are listed as missing on a database created by Interpol in 2002, yet planes were boarded about a billion times last year without the travel documents being screened against the register. The two Iranian nationals were able to board the plane in Kuala Lumpur using passports that were reported stolen in Thailand.

“The lesson that we need to learn from these kinds of incidents that happen now is the importance of technology to be accessible to all law enforcement and mainly immigration officers in accessing and integrating all the available police data,” Julia Viedma, Interpol’s director of international partnerships and development, said in an interview with Bloomberg in Singapore on March 26.

The agency is in discussions with partners such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to enhance border security at airports and other checkpoints in some of the countries with some funding from the European Commission, she said. Interpol’s goal is to make the data assessible regardless of the country’s economic status, she said.

“It’s not the idea of if I’m a rich country I’m able to buy myself the technology that I need, if I’m a poor country I’m not able to do it,” Viedma said. “We need to really try to make these differences disappear.”

Passport theft or loss is common in Thailand, with Russian, British and French passports the most commonly reported as missing in 2013, according to data from Thai police. About 2,475 losses were reported from the top 10 nationalities combined, data show.

Lyon, France-based Interpol, has warned since at least 1973 about the increased use of counterfeit passports as international tourism boomed. Criminals have made and used false passports and altered authentic travel documents for uses including for trafficking and smuggling, the agency said.

Only a few countries systematically search Interpol’s databases to determine whether a passenger is using a stolen or lost travel document, the agency said in an earlier statement. More than 800 million searches are conducted annually, and stolen or missing passports are found an average of 60,000 times a year, Interpol said.

The challenge for Interpol is to persuade governments – rather than airlines – to enforce stricter immigration checks when travelers leave their countries, said Philip Baum, managing director at Green Light, a London-based provider of security training and consultancy services.

In most countries, airlines can’t access the Interpol data base, he said, limiting the checks to border security agencies.

“Most immigration authorities around the world are primarily worried about who is coming into their countries, not who is going out,” Baum said. “Immigration authorities tend not to see aviation security as being their responsibility.”

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