UNITED NATIONS, United States - Fewer than 10 countries in the world systematically use an Interpol database to verify whether a passenger is flying with stolen documents, the organisation's secretary general said Friday.
The Stolen or Lost Travel Documents (SLTD) database contains 42 million records from 167 countries, Ronald Noble told a press conference. But of the 1.2 billion passengers who flew internationally in 2013, at least one in three were never checked in the system, he said.
The number has come to light after the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which was carrying two Iranian men who boarded with stolen passports.
It was later reported that they were illegal migrants, and Malaysian authorities were criticised for not consulting the database.
Malaysian Interior Minister Zahid Hamidi said making the checks was too time consuming for immigration officers and caused airport delays.
"Most governments unfortunately have not yet taken their responsibilities seriously," Noble said.
"Stolen or lost travel documents are in the hands of too many international terrorists," he added.
The executive director of the UN's counterterrorism committee said that scanning passports takes no more than three seconds.
"We've encouraged member states to use consistently the tools available to strengthen border management and security," Jean-Paul Laborde said, speaking at the same press conference.
But Raymond Benjamin, secretary general of the UN's Council of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), noted that non e-passports are unscannable, and they will remain valid until November 2015.
The Interpol database, which was established in 2005, is used more than 230 million times per year by the United States, more than 140 million times by Britain, more than 100 million times by the United Arab Emirates, and more than 29 million times by Singapore, according to Interpol.
In all, 800 million checks are completed each year, allowing authorities to see the date and place a passport was issued and the date the document was declared stolen or lost.