DUBAI // Half of all counterfeit passports seized at Dubai International Airport are being used by people in transit who wish to emigrate to European countries, a senior official revealed yesterday.
Brigadier Obaid bin Suroor, the deputy director of Dubai Naturalisation and Residency Department (DNRD), made the comment on the sidelines of the Gulf Information Technology Exhibition (Gitex).
In the first half of this year, 686 forged documents were discovered at Dubai International Airport, according to DNRD statistics.
"It is important for us to stop this practice, as it damaging for us," he said. "If they are caught in other countries and transferred back to us, this is bad for our security."
Brigadier bin Suroor added that his department was cooperating with the concerned countries to limit this problem.
The majority of these cases originate in Asian and African countries, according to Brigadier bin Suroor.
Those who are arrested at Dubai International Airport with forged passports are returned back to their countries of origin.
In a recent step by the Ministry of Interior, new software is used to capture images of people entering the country at the passport control counter, said Brigadier bin Suroor.
"We started implementing the rule two months ago. The aim of it is to enhance the security procedures at the border," said Brigadier bin Suroor.
Photos of people are taken and stored in a database, which makes it easier for immigration officers to cross-reference records at any other time.
"This new procedure is considered a key tool in discovering forged passports and in cross-checking information," he said.
The number of seized fake passports has increased in the last year - 100 more cases were reported in the first half of this year compared with the same period last year, according to DNRD statistics.
The increase is attributed to the effectiveness of the DNRD staff in fighting the trend of passport forgeries. "Because Dubai is an international hub, we are always going to have large exposure to forged passports. But we are continuously developing our procedures and skills to maximise our efforts in cracking down on the activity and, at the same time, speeding up the entry of travellers without compromising on a high level of security scrutiny," Brigadier bin Suroor said.
The DNRD has also set up a specialised centre to train and develop the skills of employees who deal with passports, enabling them to better detect forgeries.
With an Arabic name that can be translated as the Expertise Centre for Identity and Document Fraud (or ECID), the centre will train employees in a new set of technologies.
"The increase [of forgery cases] is due to the increased effectiveness of our staff," Brigadier bin Suroor said.
"And the number is set to increase again, as we are developing the skills of employees through our newly established training centre."
The centre offers three levels of training. The first level is aimed at the passport control counter employees. The second level features more advanced training for the supervisors of these counters, while the third level will target employees of the laboratories used to analyse suspect passports.