How to Travelling With Counterfeit Passports
I flew to Cairo and I had a conversation with the Office Manager of Egypt Air in Thailand and he was on the phone with an agency with several African travelers who seemed to try and cancel their flights and get their money back in a way that he deemed “fishy”. He was most elegant on the phone and strict in having them present themselves to the office for ticketing in person. When he finished the call, he smiled and said with assurance “They have counterfeit passports for sure and they are trying to find an easier routing as they know they can’t pass through Cairo”. I was shocked of how casual he was in “People travel on forged passports all the time”. responded with how can anyone forge passports today and he replied of how “naive I was”.
I have as mentioned two passports. An Egyptian and an EU passport. The older Egyptian passport (till 2007 or so) albeit being very elegant by not copying the measurements of most passports was incredibly easy to forge as the picture was not scanned, but now the new has more security features and the pic is scanned (no biometrics yet)… but again who wants to forge an Egyptian passport that would get you no where any way ))
The EU biometric passports are standard and the same in all EU member states with the info page a thick plastic (thickness of a credit card) sheet with security features. I reckon very hard to forge but again I was proven wrong.
In Africa and Asia I do understand the market for EU or US and other “easy to travel with” passports (non Terrorism related) and these passports do fetch a handsome amount of money too if purchased (All seen from programs and other research from open sources). These types of forgeries are mainly due to the need of these people to get to Europe or the US and that’s it… work, live…some might have dubious reasons but there is an economical aspect to thisl Not harmless but again not as dangerous as terrorism.
The EU has a live database of all active, stolen and terminated EU passports from ALL member states, so as in the case of the stolen Italian passport on the MAS flight, the user would have had zero chance to use it to go to Europe and the UK, but the database is intra European only so it could have been used for any country including the USA. It is just mind boggling -with the programmed biometrics aside- how crafty are some in being able to forge a document that would certainly show any funny business done to it as there are many security features on it.
You do not need to be an officer to check the passport’s authenticity .. all you need is to go to http://prado.consilium.europa.eu/and type in the number and the page will simply tell you (real or forged or stolen).
I do know that when the EU prepared a more stable system to be able to tackle 28 member states and their passports info, it was an IT infrastructure nightmare… I am surprised though that there isn’t a certain system that would atleast be worldwide in being able to give an alarm for bogus passport numbers or stolen passport numbers.
Maybe someone in the airline business can shed some light on this issue and experiences as well.