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13 June 2007 - Media release

INTERPOL database detects stolen passports used to smuggle migrants

LYON, France – INTERPOL’s database of stolen and lost travel documents recently helped border police at Lyon Saint Exupery Airport identify as stolen two passports used by a people-smuggling operation to move migrants from China to Europe.

Two Asian women were detained on 8 June after airport officials checked their Japanese passports against INTERPOL’s database. One of the passports was reported stolen in Spain in February 2007; the other, in Japan in April 2007.

The women had travelled separately and with larger groups of people by plane from Beijing to an Eastern European country, where they stayed for several weeks. They moved by land to Paris and later took a train to Lyon, from which they were to fly to Dublin, Ireland.

The case highlights the efficiency and effectiveness of the database when it is deployed at borders and airports. INTERPOL is encouraging member countries to contribute records on stolen or lost passports, visas and other travel documents to the database as quickly as possible and to provide remote access to the database to field officers at strategic locations.

The database contains more than 14 million records submitted by 124 member countries. Searches of the database have resulted in the detection of more than 5,000 people attempting to enter countries with travel documents that have been reported stolen or lost.

‘We cannot overstate the importance of reporting passport thefts to INTERPOL as soon as they occur, so that this information can be recorded in our database and made immediately available to law enforcement worldwide,’ said Jean-Michel Louboutin, INTERPOL’s Executive Director of Police Services.

‘This is an excellent example of how quickly these criminals seize these valuable documents to carry out their crimes. The longer a country waits to report the theft of a passport, the more time smugglers have to exploit loopholes to move people across borders illegally.’

France became in 2006 one of the first countries to extend access to the database beyond the initial connection at the National Central Bureau to all airports and seaports in the country.

In the first four months of 2007, France conducted more than 1.1 million searches of the database, which resulted in 159 hits involving 12 countries on four continents.