The discovery of two passengers who had been on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight with stolen passports has brought into the limelight a thriving underground market for illicit passports and documents. It has also shed much needed light on the standard of aviation security across the world.
While the US and UK employ stricter biometric travel documents as well as fingerprint and irises scanners in their airports to track illegal travelers, Asia falls behind in security measures, with lax security in airports making it easier for people to travel with illegal documents. Countries like Malaysia also do not carry out systematic check in spite of having the latest technology for security in airports.
Studies reveal that some of the world’s best-forged documents come from Asia. As such, the two passengers who were abroad the missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 reportedly traveled with documents that were stolen in Thailand. The passengers were booked to travel to Amsterdam via a connecting flight from Beijing.
However, the Malaysian authorities failed to check the documents with the database of stolen passports kept up to date by Interpol. In a separate report that it published, the Interpol revealed that nearly 1 billion passengers were able to travel globally last year without the authorities screening their passports with the database. Countries that don’t follow these security measures tend to become weak links in international travel.
Thailand happens to be one of the foremost markets for stolen as well as tampered passports. The country has become a haven for asylum seekers and criminals who remain hidden until they get the necessary fake documents to travel to a country of their choice, thereby escaping imprisonment back home.
Various theories about the passengers with stolen identities are being put forward. The director general of Malaysia’s Department of Civil Aviation revealed that the passengers did not look like Asians. Reports ab out an Iranian man called Kazem Ali purchasing the tickets for these passengers have also started doing the rounds, with U.S. officials trying to find out whether there might be a terrorist angle to the missing flight.
Thai police also seemed to have traced the purchased tickets to travel agencies located in Pattaya, Bangkok. The agencies revealed that a certain Mr. Ali had called them, requesting for cheap tickets to both Copenhagen and Frankfurt.
In addition to carrying out their own research, U.S. officials are hoping the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) would help them. However, the FBI is waiting for a formal invitation from the host nation in order start an official probe.
The mystery of the missing Malaysian flight seems to be getting deeper every day. Reports of two passengers traveling abroad the flight with stolen documents has brought about a possible terrorist angle to the entire case. Whether they were terrorists or not remains a mystery. However, the development has brought to the limelight the thriving fake documents trade in the Asian countries as well as the lax security measures followed in the airports located in these countries.