Trafficking in ‘lost’ passports seems to flourish

Czech passports are popular with Iranians and Syrians, offered for sale in Italy.

Prague, Feb 7 (ČTK) — The foreigner police registered 105 cases of the forgery or illegal changing of Czech passports in the past three years and found out that many of them were probably sold by their holders to the criminal underworld and resold mainly to African and Middle East clients, Hubert Lang has told the Czech News Agency.

Lang, who heads the foreigner police department of personal documents, said the migrants pay tens of thousands of crowns for forged passports.

The police uncovered the suspicious cases during the checks at the five Czech international airports, which are the country’s only outer Schengen border.

On arrival, foreigners either produced forged passports or ones in which only the first page with a photo was changed. Further checks showed that some of the passports had been reported stolen or lost by their Czech holders.

The police found that some holders reported a loss of several passports within a short time.

“It is not usual if some people lose three or four passports in six months and if all these passports return to us within illegal migration,” Lang said.

The police also found it suspicious that passports were most often lost by people who live regions with high unemployment and who have low income themselves.

Suspected crimes related to passports and their forging have been usually investigated by the police’s organized crime squad, Lang said.

As an example he mentioned forged documents, originally issued for residents of a small north Bohemian town, which ended in the hands of people in Aleppo, Syria.

According to ČTK’s sources, Czech passports are also “on offer” in the surroundings of Lampedusa, Italy, which annually becomes a destination for tens of thousands of refugees from across the Mediterranean Sea.

Lang said Czech passports were often used as travel documents by citizens of Iran or Syria, who paid at least 25,000 Kč for one. The police register cases of migrants who paid even a double sum for a Czech passport.

“We have registered a Syrian family who paid a huge sum [for forged Czech passports], sold all their property and were fleeing the area of conflict,” Lang said.

Theoretically, Czech passports may fall into the hands of dangerous people, he admitted.

A step that could help improve the situation would be a change in the relevant law, which would raise the fees for the issuance of a new passport for those who allegedly lost several passports before. The law could also punish such repeated losses more strictly, Lang said.

A NationalCenter for the Control of Documents is to start operation as from 2016. It will gather the information about forged and changed personnel documents, which will enable the police to better assess particular cases and face potential threats.

Czech passports are reportedly one of the world’s five best-protected passports.

Lang said the 105 cases in three years definitely do not represent all passport forgeries. “We believe that their number is far higher,” he said.


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