Dubai: Dubai has a strong message for fraudsters who try to forge passports: “You can try, but beware of GDRFA’s Document Examination Centre, as its whole purpose is to catch you.”
GDRFA is the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs.
With millions of people going in and out of Dubai each year, verifying the integrity of passports is at the heart of the emirate’s GDRFA. The Document Examination Centre at GDRFA-Dubai, located at Dubai International Airport’s Terminal 1, is a “firewall” against fraudsters forging passports and it thereby helps prevent travel through the emirate using fake passports.
Aqil Ahmad Al Najjar, consultant of the centre, told Gulf News that the centre was established to check the genuinity of passports and travel documents. The centre has detected 1,327 forged and counterfeit documents, including passports and documents related to facilitating travel procedures, such as identity cards, residence cards and entry visas during 2023.
Al Najjar said the centre employs 62 experts and administrators and offers training courses in detecting counterfeiting, advanced forgery, and plagiarism detection. The latest methods for detecting forged documents involve using software to compare original visually changing forms (hologram) and employing 3D techniques to detect modifications in passport personal photos.
The most important document seized, he said, was an otherwise-genuine passport whose holder at the time (a fraudster) had “blocked” the original data page (usually the first page in any passport showing the details of the holder) and the original personal photo. The fraudster made the data page and photo correspond to the data and the photo of the fraudster without destroying the original data page and photo - and even returned the passport to its original owner without causing any harm to it.
Another challenging case involved a passport holder who was initially prevented from travelling due to differences in facial features between the passport photo and the appearance of the holder. After extensive examination and cooperation with the issuing country’s consulate, it was discovered that the discrepancies were due to cosmetic surgeries the holder had undergone.
The centre utilises modern devices which contains visible and invisible radiation, and devices for reading information stored in passport chips. The centre also has a remote examination device.
Every counter at Dubai Airports Passport Control is equipped with advanced retrochecks (machines that help check suspected passports) so that the first-line officers can check and detect fake passports. Al Najjar said that remote machines distributed across all terminals of Dubai Airports, apart from other sea and land ports, allow officers to transfer suspect documents to the main centre for a quick verification and decision in order to avoid delays for passengers.
“Once a suspected passport is caught by a passport control officer, the passport is first sent to a police station and then referred to prosecution, who sends it to our centre. We examine passports and other travel documents to prepare a report, which is then sent to Dubai Public Prosecution to initiate legal action [if the passport or any other related travel document is found to be fake],” he added.
The examination period for determining the authenticity of travel documents varies from seconds to much longer, depending on the complexity of the forgery. In many cases, the forged document is detected using very simple detection methods such as magnifying lenses, and in some cases more advanced equipment is required.
Some of the challenges faced include the continued development of new counterfeiting methods, requiring examiners to stay vigilant and updated through attending conferences and workshops and building an information network with peers. The centre’s future plan is to be a pioneer in examining fraudulent travel documents and to serve as a reference for concerned authorities, aiming to ensure the integrity of travel documents and protect travellers from being defrauded by organisations or individuals offering false documents.
Its future plan is to maintain its status as a leading authority in examining fraudulent travel documents and to provide guidance and support to authorities to ensure the integrity of travel documents and protect travelers from fraudulent activities.
Al Najjar also advises travelers to verify the authenticity of travel documents with accredited authorities before making any payments to avoid falling victim to fraudulent documents.
Types of forgeries
Al Najjar said there are four types of forged documents.
1. The document is completely forged, which means that the document under examination was not issued by the country to which it is attributed.
2. The forgery is in an official document but changed by adding or deleting information.
3. An illegal issuance, which consists of obtaining the document empty of data and filling it with data and a personal photo by the forger.
4. The issuance of a document by an official, but with forged personal information, such as the issuance of a passport on the basis of a valid personal data form for one person and a personal photo of another person.