x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Dubai airport staff catch more fake passports

Almost 700 forged passports have been discovered at Dubai International Airport in the first half of this year, an increase of almost 20 per cent from 2009.

DUBAI // Almost 700 forged passports have been discovered at Dubai International Airport in the first half of this year, an increase of almost 20 per cent from 2009. The 686 cases represent an average of almost four per day and an increase from 579 during the same period of last year, the organisation's statistics showed. Training by the agency's education centre, which opened in December of last year, has played an integral part in the improved security, authorities said.

"The increase is due the effectiveness of our staff and the number is set to increase as we are developing the skills of our employees who check passports at border posts through our newly established specialised training centre," said Brig Obaid bin Suroor, the DNRD acting director. "Dubai is an international hub, so our exposure to forged passports is higher than other places due the large influx of people who comes through our borders."

The issue made headlines following the murder of a senior Hamas official in January by assailants believed to be Mossad agents, who entered the country on fake passports from western countries including the UK and Australia. It was in the spotlight again in May after it was revealed that 10 passengers on the ill-fated Air India Express flight from Dubai to Mangalore had false documents. The centre was created through an order by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, the Crown Prince of Dubai, to help those who deal with passports to better detect forgeries. While the DNRD has been training airport workers already on the job, the graduates of its first systematic training course, completed on Sunday, will have learnt all the latest detection methods.

The course, attended by 23 passport check counter staff and conducted with the Australian embassy, included classes on acquiring security information and its analysis and significance. Janet Mackin, the regional director for the Australian immigration department, said the course was aimed at sharing information with the DNRD employees and giving them an overview on how the mechanism works in Australia.

"Our mission is to help travellers but at the same time to stop those who carry forged passports," she said. Acquiring and evaluating data has to be weighed against helping passengers to remain on schedule. A knowledgeable staff that can quickly spot improper documents makes that task much easier. "Our biggest challenge is how to speed up the entry of travellers while at the same time keep a high level of security scrutiny," said Brig bin Suroor. "This can only be achieved through training and developing skills, so, therefore, the centre plays an important role in our work."

The DNRD aims to process ordinary travellers in three minutes or less, including checking their passport. If the counter employee gets suspicious about a passenger's documents, the case is referred to the supervisor and then to the laboratory if authenticity is still in doubt. "The time it takes for a forged document to be discovered varies depending on the level of sophistication but on average the laboratory report is ready with 24 hours," said Brig bin Suroor. "There are forgeries which can be discovered either through the sight or the feel of the paper, while there are more sophisticated types which are hard to detect and would need through testing and specialised equipment."

The centre offers training for passport check counter employees, counter supervisors and laboratory employees. Border post employees from other GCC countries also have received training. "The centre is playing an important regional and international role in combating forged documents," said Brig bin Suroor. wissa@thenational.ae