IOM Builds Capacity of Iraqi Officials to Identify Fraudulent Travel Documents

Iraqi senior border officials are trained on advanced passport examination procedures.

By HIJRA AMINA programme, IOM Iraq and IBM Cairo

For the past two years, IOM has been training Basra International Airport (BSR) officials to build their border management skills to address irregular migration and detect fraudulent travel documents. The trainings have built capacity at the airport, where passenger traffic jumped fourfold between 2009 – 2012.

“In the last five years, some 300 cases of forged visas and some 50 travel documents were identified at BSR,” says Captain Mustafa*, who supervises personnel assigned to examine personal documents and interview travelers at the airport.

In 2013, in one of the airport authorities’ most successful operations, 25 forged Bangladeshi passports were discovered on a single flight. In 2014, Basra airport officials also identified a false passport bearing residency stamps from Europe and neighbouring countries.

“This lady had been entering all of these countries undetected with a false passport. But we detected her in Basra, largely as a result of the capacities built by IOM over the years,” says Mustafa.

Migrant workers from different parts of the world arrive at the airport daily and it is essential for airport officials to accurately and independently assess their eligibility to travel.

The trainings provided by IOM have focused on Iraq’s Ministry of Interior.  In November 2013, some 39 officials attended a ten-day “Training of Trainers” on Advanced Passport Examination Procedures, organized under IOM’s European Union (EU)-funded Hirja Amina programme.  

The training qualified several senior border officials, including Captain Mustafa, to deliver trainings on document examination themselves. The trainees-turned-trainers gave trainings to new BSR airport staff and to Iraqi Airways staff.

To achieve the overarching goal of finding the right balance between security and facilitation of cross-border movements, three fundamental requirements must be achieved by a State. The need for a comprehensive regulatory framework; consistent interpretation of the framework and effective application of the framework. These are the ‘principles’ which guide IOM’s border management capacity building strategy.

“This training contributes to the government’s efforts to fulfil its goals by ensuring that all entries and exits happen in full respect of Iraq’s legal requirements,” says Donato Colucci, one of the trainers and IOM’s Senior IBM Specialist for the Middle East and North Africa.

Controlling the flow of migrants has become even more challenging in the face of a migration crisis triggered by the conflict now raging in Iraq. “It is now also very important to pay attention to internal flights, making sure that we check Iraqi IDs well,” says Captain Mustafa.

IOM’s Humanitarian Border Management guidelines emphasize that new technologies, communication between border crossing points, and a strong commitment to humanitarian principles are essential to ensure orderly and humane migration in times of migration crisis.

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* Name concealed for security reasons.