England

Fake passport seizures at UK borders 'at five-year high'

International Arrivals at Gatwick Image copyright PA/Chris Ison
Image caption The Home Office would not give seized passport figures for individual locations

The number of forged passports seized at UK borders has reached a five-year high, with nearly 1,100 being confiscated in 2014.

Figures obtained by the BBC show 1,099 forged documents were seized at ports and airports in 2014, the last year for which statistics were available.

The Home Office declined to provide figures for individual ports.

It said disclosure would prejudice the prevention and detection of crime or the operation of immigration controls.

Fake passports seized at UK border ports and airports

  • 2010 - 1,074
  • 2011 - 1,024
  • 2012 - 895
  • 2013 - 1,082
  • 2014 - 1,099
  • 2015 (January to June) 528

Figures include existing passports that have been tampered with and documents counterfeited from scratch.

Source: The Home Office

The Home Office (HO) replied to an FoI request from BBC Radio Kent, which also requested a breakdown in seizures at the Port of Dover, through British border checks in Calais, and the Eurotunnel terminals in Folkestone and Calais.

But after careful consideration, the HO decided not to issue the breakdown having decided it was exempt from disclosure in the public interest.

Counter-terrorism expert Bob Milton said fake passports enabled the likes of terrorists and extremists to travel freely across the world.

"It is a huge problem because it is hiding people's identity," he said.

'Strong border controls'

Lucy Moreton, general secretary of the Immigration Services Union, said one of the biggest issues was dealing with the "bureaucratic systems" of other countries.

"It is not British passports that are being exploited in this way, although they are open to that," she said.

"All we can do is to ensure that our border controls are as strong as they can be."

In a statement, the Home Office said: "Protecting our borders has always been - and remains - a top priority.

"All passports are inspected by Border Force officers in the UK to make sure the owners of fraudulent documents are prevented from entering the country."

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