Islamic State has a burgeoning passport manufacturing industry, which originally got its start after militants seized a trove of documents from Iraq, Syria and Libya.
French Minister of the Interior Bernard Cazeneuve delivered news of the thriving passport operation Monday at a press conference, at which point he also advocated for a special task force to be sent to Greece in order to screen out fake documents held by migrants, The Wall Street Journal reports.
“Daesh has managed to seize passports in Iraq, Syria and Libya and to set up a true industry of fake passports,” Cazeneuve said.
No decision has been reached on the task force.
If established, it would report back information to a European Union-wide counterterrorism database accessible by member states.
The U.S. warned in December ISIS may have access to a passport printing machine, which it’s employing to print Syrian passports. ISIS apparently captured the equipment after the group overran the city of Deir ez-Zour. There is also another passport office in Raqqa, Syria, home to ISIS’ capital. The Department of Homeland Security said it was moderately confident that reports of ISIS manufacturing fake passports are true. These passports only cost between $200 and $400.
Further information sharing on terror threats and fake identification documents would help keep the Schengen Area intact as countries now are worried about the unmitigated flow of militants from one country to the next in the 26-country zone. E.U. interior ministers met Monday in Amsterdam but negotiations aren’t going well for the zone. Officials are seriously considering suspending the Schengen Area for a period of two years until the migrant crisis winds down. Most of the migrants start from Turkey, head to Greece and then move further into the heart of Europe. A large subset of the migrant population relies on fake Syrian passports to pass themselves off as refugees so that they can gain entrance to Europe.
Two of the terrorists from the Paris attacks relied on fake Syrian passports to move through Greece without a hitch.
Greek Deputy Minister of the Interior Nikos Toskas admitted Monday the challenges the country faces with processing the sheer number of identification documents passed off by migrants, many of whom are not even from Syria. Greek authorities at a high point last year had to deal with 10,000 migrants daily.
“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,” Toskas said, according to The Wall Street Journal.
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