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Airlines Can’t Be Held Responsible for Finding Fake Passports, IATA Says

Mar 12, 2014 1:00 pm

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Governments, not airlines, have access to a database of stolen documents, making them solely responsible for controlling borders. However, airlines are a frontline filter and could be someway included in the ID process in the future.

— Samantha Shankman

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Stefano Rellandini  / Reuters

A police officer checks the passport of a Chinese immigrant at the Shen Wu textile factory in Prato December 9, 2013. Stefano Rellandini / Reuters


Airlines cannot be held responsible for identifying passengers using false documents because they have no access to a database of stolen documents that is only available to governments, industry group IATA said on Wednesday.

The fate of the missing Malaysian Airlines flight, which at least two passengers had boarded using stolen passports, has raised questions about traveller identification.

Global police agency Interpol has said in 2013 passengers were able to board planes a billion times without their passports being screened against the agency’s databases.

IATA Director General Tony Tyler said airlines spent large sums annually in giving governments in more than 60 countries advance details on passengers flying into their territory.

“It is the responsibility of governments to ensure that their borders are secure,” he told a news conference at the Geneva headquarters of IATA, the International Air Transport Association, which represents the airline industry worldwide.

“If governments are being provided with a very comprehensive database (by Interpol) of lost and stolen passports, why aren’t they using it?” the IATA chief asked.

Two Iranian citizens who arrived in Malaysia on their own passports but then left using European passports that were reported lost by their owners several months ago were on flight MH370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing that disappeared with 239 people on board.

Tyler said airlines carried out their own visual checks to ensure that the names on their passenger lists corresponded to those on the passport. “But that is as far as the responsibility goes,” he added.

“If there is a problem with border control and invalid passports, that is an issue which governments have to step up to and address.”

Asked if the airlines would take checks for fake documents on themselves if they were given access to the Interpol database, Tyler indicated that they would be reluctant to do so.

“It is not a job for airlines, it is a job for governments,” he said. “It is up to governments to control borders.”

Editing by Alison Williams.

Copyright (2014) Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

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