Complicated Growing Use of Fake Syrian Passports
According to several recent news reports, many refugees and migrants entering, or who have entered, the EU are doing so with false Syrian passports, creating what may be the biggest mass fraud of our time by sheer volume. There are terrorism risks that threaten international security because ISIS has repeatedly promised to send their specially-trained terrorists from Syria on migrant boats posing as fake refugees with the solitary mission of carrying out acts of terrorism to destabilize the West. Overlaying all of this is the fact that there are 60 million refugees in the world and we are facing the worse humanitarian crisis ever. The issues are multi-faceted and complex.
With respect to fake passports:
- Police in Bulgaria intercepted a box of 10,000 fake Syrian passports in the postal system that were destined for Germany.
- A Moroccan man wanted for ISIS terrorist-related activities was arrested by police in Germany who was living at a refugee centre. He used a fake Syrian passport to enter the EU as an alleged Syrian refugee. He was on an Interpol terrorist wanted list.
- The head of EU’s Frontex told Europe 1 Media that trafficking in fake Syrian passports is a growing criminal business in Turkey.
- Some refugees readily admit that they used or bought fake ID to travel and apply for refugee protection, and refugee financial support.
- Several journalists in the Middle East have reported being able to easily buy false Syrian documents from traffickers. Reporter Harald Doornbos obtained a fake Syrian passport for $825 with a photo of the Dutch Prime Minister on it (pictured at the right). A UK reporter was able to negotiate for a fake Syrian passport for $2,000 on a Facebook page run by human traffickers.
4 Types of Fake Syrian Passports
There are four types of fake Syrian passports:
1. There are passports that groups like ISIS Amy manufacture for terrorism-related purposes to send people to the EU and North America to commit acts of terrorism. Because ISIS has access, and control over some government functions in Syria, it is able to produce real passports with fake information. It also produces fake passports to allow foreign defectors to enter Syria from Turkey and creates fake passports for human trafficking and human slavery purposes.
2. There are real Syrian passports for sale – these are blank passports stolen from the Syrian government that are essentially ready-to-go where the fraudster merely needs to insert the purchaser’s photo and seal it for completion.
3. There are partially real Syrian passports- these are official Syrian passport templates from the Syrian government but they have false information inserted derived from identity stolen online or from a tourist that was stolen in Turkey.
4. Finally, there are homemade Syrian passports made in Turkey or Lebanon that a person can obtain with his or her real name, or a fake name. These are the least popular and cost the least.
Traffickers use social media to market and sell fake passports and Facebook is a popular marketing venue, such as the Facebook page pictured here with 117,819 members that reporters have used to buy fake documents.
Reasons Why Fake Syrian Passports are in Demand
There are multiple reasons why fake passports are in demand and being created, resulting in such a booming organized crime business.
For Terrorist Acts
A key one is that threat groups need such passports for terrorism-related purposes. These passports are the most sophisticated and essentially are undetectable in terms of documentation because they are official in the sense that they are created with official government tools. Only the holder thereof knows he or she is not the person named on the passport.
For Terrorist Financing
Threat groups also issue passports to send their people out to other countries for terrorist financing purposes. The most compelling story of this occurring was the situation whereby ISIS’ leader, al Baghdadi’s wife had a fake Syrian passport (she is Iraqi) and lived in a refugee camp as a false refugee claimant in Lebanon.
For Access to EU
Fake passports enable people who are truly or falsely claiming refugee status to rapidly become a Convention refugee in the EU and obtain benefits, including the right to work.
The trafficking in fake Syrian passports is so effective, that many foreign nationals from poor countries who are not refugees, are leaving their own countries, entering Syria or Turkey, obtaining fake ID and then departing for the EU in order to gain access as a Syrian refugee.
Economic migrants use the refugee crisis for admission to the EU. The EU has said that nine out of ten refugee claimants who enter Serbia from Macedonia claim to be Syrian refugees and seek refugee protection but are not Syrian. UNHCR has said that out of the nearly 400,000 people who entered Italy and Greece in 2015, only half were refugees from Syria. Many are economic migrants from other places.
For Employment and Shelter
Fake passports are sought and bought by real refugees because they do not have any identity documents and believe that using fake documentation will assist them enter another country. Having official documentation is a condition precedent in many host countries for refugees to rent an apartment, get a job and send their children to school. Some do it for survival.
Refugee fraud threatens international security
There is not enough humanitarian aid to go around and abuse of the system from criminal activity means legitimate refugees fleeing terrorism suffer from increased poverty and lack of essential services.
Frontex is Concerned
There is a good interview (en francais) with the Director of Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri, below, regarding migrants, refugees, illegal immigration and the problem of TCOs selling fake passports. He says:
- There is an increase of 175% in the number of irregular migrants who crossed borders into the EU in 2015, compared to 2014.
- In 2015, 340,000 people who were irregular migrants with fake identity, were detected in EU. Many more were not detected.
- There is a system of saturation of the registration system for refugees and migrants in the EU and thus, not all can be registered.