Me and my fake passport
I just saw a BBC film called “Me and My Passports”, in which Shahida Tulaganova, a BBC journalist, travels across Europe looking for fake passports. Her goal is to get a passport from each one of the 24 European countries, and then to enter UK with one of them.
She found her first passport in London, through an ad in a newspaper in russian language. The dealer got her a genuine Czech passport, requested by someone looking like her and using her real photo.
It then took her a few months, and a few scary moments (like one time in Greece, when a guy supposed to deliver her 4 different passports comes with nothing but a knife and demands her money) but she got a total of 20 passports.
Some were stolen, some were totally fake, some were real ones that had been stolen blank… Sometimes, she would have to use the stolen identity, sometimes her real name or a name chosen by her could be inserted.
Along the way she met some kind of specialist, who would review the passports and give her advice on which ones to use to cross the frontier.
And it worked. Twice. The first time she took a ferry in Spain and entered UK with a fake Latvian passport; a doubtful officer asked her a few questions like ‘what’s your address’ or ‘how old are you’ – but she was prepared to answer them and she was quickly released. The second time, she left Brussels with the Eurostar to London. (That scares me even more that this was possible in my own country). In Brussels she was controlled by both Belgian and English officers, then again by English officers when arriving in London, and her stolen Estonian passport never got her in trouble – although stolen passports are supposed to be registered in an international Interpol database.
Shahida’s investigation poses questions over the number of non-EU nationals entering Britain on illegal passports. She uses Poland as an example.
“Since [Poland] country joined the EU less than two years ago a quarter of a million Poles have left and legally registered for work in Britain,” she says.
“But if my contacts are right, many of these may not have been Poles at all, but illegal immigrants using fake passports.”
At the end of the adventure, she asked for an interview with the competent Minister but didn’t get it. She instead received a letter saying that there is “comprehensive bilateral exchange of information between member states regarding the issue of lost and stolen EU passports” and that all immigration officers are highly trained in identifying false documents.
UK also introduced new passports where the information and picure are stored in a chip. That might secure British passports, but what about the 23 other European countries?