It is not yet clear what role, if any, was played by two Iranian passengers believed to have boarded the Malaysia Airlines flight MH 370 using stolen passports in the disappearance of the Boeing.
The discovery that the passports were stolen was made through Interpol’s Stolen and Lost Travel Documents (SLTD) database but India, which sees arrival of more than 60 lakh foreign passengers every year, is not among the 167 countries that contribute to the SLTD database.
The database lets immigration and security officials verify if a passenger is travelling on stolen documents or not. The stolen Austrian and Italian passports on which the two passengers were travelling were added to SLTD database after their theft in Thailand in 2012 and 2013 respectively.
India is not among signatories to the Interpol’s database, a senior CBI official confirmed. CBI is the nodal agency in India to communicate with Interpol. A senior Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) official said they mostly depend on “trained eyes” to detect fake passports and visas.
“We have technological solutions, ultra violet (UV) lamps being one of the features to detect any forged or fake passport of passengers entering the country through airports or sea-ports. Whenever any such passengers are detected, they are either deported or criminal action is initiated against them,” said a senior MHA official.
The SLTD database was created in 2002, following the September 11, 2001 (9/11) terrorist attacks in the US, to help member countries secure borders and protect their citizens from terrorists and criminals who may use fraudulent travel documents.
“Law enforcement officials at Interpol National Central Bureau and other locations with access to Interpol’s database through the I-24/7 secure global police communication system — such as airports and border crossings — can query passports of individuals travelling internationally against SLTD, and immediately determine if the document has been reported lost or stolen,” the Interpol’s website says. The database was searched by member countries more than 80 crore times in 2013, resulting in some 67,000 positive responses, or ‘hits’.
“We have our own system where we check veracity of documents before anybody applies for visa. Some applicants are rejected at the first step itself,” said the official.