x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Indian ambassador warns fake passports threaten UAE

Kerala government urged to address a "casual approach" towards citizens using fraudulent passports.

Talmiz Ahmad said the Indian Embassy was aware of a large number of cases of citizens from Kerala using fake identities.
Talmiz Ahmad said the Indian Embassy was aware of a large number of cases of citizens from Kerala using fake identities.

The Indian ambassador to the UAE has urged the government of the southern state of Kerala to address a "casual approach" towards citizens who use fraudulent passports to travel to the UAE and elsewhere in the Gulf. Talmiz Ahmad said the Indian Embassy was aware of a large number of cases of citizens from Kerala using fake identities and holding multiple passports, which was illegal and posed a serious security threat to the UAE.

Vayalar Ravi, India's minister for overseas affairs, has also called for a tightening of police verification processes in Kerala to weed out the use of fraudulent passports. "We get several such cases and this needs to be seriously looked into as it poses a security threat," said Mr Ahmad. The ambassador claimed there was a certain "indulgence" of the situation in Kerala that needed to be addressed by the state government with stricter laws.

"There is a casual approach in Kerala towards people holding multiple passports with fake identities. I am deeply concerned about this," Mr Ahmad said. "Many of them come back to the UAE on fake identities looking for jobs. However, this activity could open an opportunity to other elements." Last week, at least five Indians were apprehended by immigration officials at the Kozhikode International Airport in Kerala after arriving on fake passports from Ras al Khaimah. Kerala police suspected the existence of an organised network that provided fake passports to Indians travelling to Gulf countries, the Indian media reported.

On July 6, Kerala customs officials caught a man at the airport who was travelling to Sharjah with 31 passports in his possession. Mr Ahmad said it was not yet clear whether the passports were fake, or legitimate documents bearing fraudulent identities. "I have not come across any fake documents since it is not easy to copy an Indian passport or visa. However, we know that a large number of people, especially from Kerala, have two or three passports of different identities," said Mr Ahmad. Such passports, he said, usually originated in India. He said the fines and penalties for this type of offence were negligible. "As per the Indian laws, people caught with fake passports are let off with just a 5,000 rupee [Dh432] fine. This needs to be amended," he said.

The ambassador's comments come as India investigates a series of bomb attacks, suspected to have been orchestrated by external terrorists. "India does not need any reminding to tighten these systems," said Mr Ahmad. "We have been victims of terror attacks for years now and it is clear that we need a hard system in place." It was, Mr Ravi said, "an issue of the internal security of the country. We do not want this to happen."

Dubai Naturalisation and Residency Department (DNRD) officials declined to comment, but earlier this year Brig Mohammed Ahmad al Marri, the director, said at least 500 fake passports were seized by airport officials during the second half of 2007. Last week, DNRD introduced a system at the international airport that can recognise more than 1,400 documents from 190 countries. @Email:pmenon@thenational.ae