INTERPOL recently joined forces with Frontex, the European Union agency for external border security, to hold a joint operation in Italy to detect fraudulent travel documents at the country’s busiest airports.
The aim of Frontex’s Operation Hammer was to prevent criminals using stolen or lost travel documents from entering the European Union, and to dismantle criminal networks that use the fraudulent documents.
From 2 to 5 November, INTERPOL assisted Frontex with the operation to check the travel documents used by passengers travelling through the Rome Fiumicino and Milan Malpensa International Airports.
The operation, which also took place in other EU countries between 26 October and 15 November, targeted people smuggling and trafficking networks that provide lost or stolen travel documents to illegal immigrants or individuals involved in organized crime.
INTERPOL’s Stolen and Lost Travel Documents (SLTD) database was the main tool used during the operation. It holds information on some 30 million travel documents reported as lost or stolen by 161 countries and enables immigration and border control officers to ascertain the validity of a suspect travel document in seconds.
Italy was selected as the location for INTERPOL’s involvement in the operation in order to extend access for border police to INTERPOL's secure global police communications network (known as I-24/7), which in turn allows officers to connect directly to the SLTD database. This enhanced infrastructure will provide long-term benefits for the country in terms of improved operational capacity.
Nearly 8,000 passengers were checked through the database during the four-day operation in Italy. The inspections resulted in three positive hits, including a British passport that had been reported stolen and was being used by an alleged illegal immigrant trying to board a plane from Rome to Toronto, Canada. This positive match was possible only by using INTERPOL’s SLTD database as the passport originated from a country outside the Schengen zone. Following the necessary procedures, the individual was arrested and placed in custody by the Italian immigration office.
The operation followed awareness-raising workshops for Italian border authorities on INTERPOL’s Stolen and Lost Travel Documents database and how to detect fraudulent travel documents.
Actively participating in the operation were the Trafficking in Human Beings Sub-Directorate and Database Management Branch at the INTERPOL General Secretariat, along with the INTERPOL National Central Bureau in Rome.