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ISIS has reportedly obtained equipment and blank passport books required to make fake Syrian passports when taking control of Raqqa and Deir Ezzour in Syria, say Western security officials. A Belgian counter-terrorism official has said that ISIS acquired similar supplies to make Iraqi passports when they overtook Mosul.
The 13 November Paris attacks have highlighted the risk of terrorists entering Europe carrying fake Syrian passports, as at least one of the attackers has been registered as a refugee in Greece.
While European leaders are attempting to strengthen border security, their efforts may not be sufficient. Frontex, the EU’s border agency, has deployed document inspectors to Greek island in order to identify fake passports. However, there are currently only ten inspectors, and identifying a fraudulent document printed on an official blank with the proper equipment can be a very difficult task, a Frontex spokeswoman said.
“It’s enormously difficult to figure out,” said former UK senior counterterrorism official Richard Barrett. “Maybe if you have very good local knowledge, very good Arabic language skills,” he added. ISIS “can probably make them good enough to get them past someone who has faced 10,000 refugees,” he added.
As communication between Western governments and the Syrian regime is almost nonexistent, identifying Syrian fakes is an even more challenging task.
“The lack of ability to verify information with the Syrian government about how many passports may be vulnerable for exploitation in former provincial/regional government building(s) will make attempts to analyze the scale of the problem difficult,” says a confidential analysis prepared by the Department of Homeland Security, the Wall Street Journal reports.