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Islamic State Said to Have ‘Industry of Fake Passports’

Islamic State Said to Have ‘Industry of Fake Passports’

French Minister Bernard Cazeneuve urges Europe to create task forces to help identify bogus papers

Jan. 25, 2016 12:09 p.m. ET

AMSTERDAM—Islamic State has created an industry from passports seized in Iraq, Syria and Libya, French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Monday.

At a meeting of interior ministers in Amsterdam, Mr. Cazeneuve made the case for setting up special task forces to be sent to Greece to assist the identification of fake or stolen passports.

“Daesh has managed to seize passports in Iraq, Syria and Libya and to set up a true industry of fake passports,” Mr. Cazeneuve said in a news conference after the meeting, using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

He made the case for establishing this task force and for authorities in the European Union to upload any relevant information to the counterterrorism databases in the bloc.

At least two of the terrorists in the Paris attacks in November traveled on the migrant route through Greece using Syrian passports and posing as refugees, as over one million people arrived on the continent last year, mostly via Greece.

Speaking in a separate news conference, Greek deputy interior minister Nikos Toskas admitted that identifying fake passports is a big challenge for Greek authorities, particularly when thousands of people arrive every day on a small island.

He said at the peak of the migratory influx last year, when 10,000 people were arriving daily on the Greek islands, only about half of the migrants were registered. But fingerprinting has improved since, he said.

“We are checking these people, as proved by the Paris perpetrators. When French authorities asked us to check their identity, we found the data and passed it on immediately,” Mr. Toskas said.

“But on the issue of fake documents, many are sold on Middle East markets and we know how difficult it is to identify them with good machines, in calm conditions, not when you have 4,000 arriving in a day,” he said.

While no decision has yet been taken on sending fake document specialists to Greece, the head of the bloc’s police agency, Europol, said that his experts are available to help governments on this issue.

“Europol is helping member states in this unprecedented migration crisis, in particular in regards to organized crime, where the provision of fake documents is a key part of criminal activity,” Europol chief Rob Wainwright said.

Mr. Wainwright added that since the terrorist attacks in Paris on Nov. 13, there has been a “considerable improvement in the level of intelligence exchanged, also flowing through Europol.”

Write to Valentina Pop at valentina.pop@wsj.com

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