As a result of Malaysian Flight 370, stolen passports are a major issue of concern and countries are being advised to improve their screening procedures.
As the search continues for Malaysian Flight 370, new scrutiny is being placed on stolen passports. Two men from Iran evidently used stolen passports to board the flight, which has led some to speculate that the men may have been terrorists. Malaysian authorities, however, believe that at least one of the men was trying to emigrate to Germany using a stolen Austrian passport. It has been revealed that both men used valid Iranian passports to enter Malaysia.
Interpol created a database of stolen and lost passports in 2002, and the database now has more than 40 million documents available within it. The idea is that when you try to enter a country, your passport will be checked against this database, and if you’re using a stolen passport, you’ll be found out. The database is meant to catch terrorists, smugglers, and thieves traveling the world. Unfortunately, the catalogue is only used systematically to screen travelers in the United States, Britain, and the United Arab Emirates. The two men with stolen passports on Flight 370 did not have their passports checked against a database.
Expect Tougher Passport Checks
This incident is causing concern in the international community and will almost certainly lead to more stringent passport checks around the world. Countries are being strongly advised to pay closer attention to the Interpol database and improve their screening procedures.
Unfortunately, there are occasional stories of people being able to slip into a foreign country and back to the United States without a valid passport. There are cracks in the system that this kind of thing can happen from time to time. However, after the Flight 370 incident, the chances of this happening will be extremely rare.
If you have an international trip coming up and you think you’ll be able to get by with just your driver’s license, think again. Traveling without a valid passport is not worth the risk of missing your trip, or worse, getting stranded in a foreign country. Take the time to apply for a passport, or even better, let the SPS do all the work for you.
Always Replace Stolen Passports Immediately
The other lesson to take away from this tragedy is the importance of reporting a lost or missing passport right away. If you fail to report a stolen passport, and someone uses your identity to commit crimes around the world… we don’t even want to think about the possible consequences. Especially if you’re abroad when your passport goes missing, call your local embassy right away to let them know what happened. The embassy will be able to help you replace a stolen passport so that you can continue your travels without further worry.
Rob Lee is co-founder of Swift Passport and Visa Services. Originally from Michigan, Rob is an avid fisherman and SCUBA diver who enjoys adventure travel.