About 7,000 passports stolen or lost a year

SINGAPORE - About 7,000 Singapore passports were reported lost or stolen each year over the past five years, Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Masagos Zulkifli told Parliament yesterday.

In the same period, an average of about 350 travellers each year were found holding forged or tampered travel documents across all the checkpoints in Singapore, or presented documents that did not belong to them.

Mr Masagos gave these figures in response to questions tabled by five MPs on passport infringements in the wake of reports that two passengers on board the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 had used stolen passports.

When a report is received that a passport is lost or has been stolen, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority of Singapore (ICA) will immediately cancel the passport and update its database, said Mr Masagos.

It will also send relevant information to international criminal police organisation Interpol.

Since 2008, the authority has been using Interpol's database as part of its passport documentation process.

The database contains information on more than 40 million travel documents that have been reported stolen or lost by 167 countries.

"Singapore is one of several Interpol member states that cross-check travellers' passports against this database, accessing it about 29 million times a year, to determine if a passport presented had been reported lost or stolen," said Mr Masagos.

He added that ICA works with global partners to exchange information on lost and stolen travel documents to deter cases of passport infringements.

New Singapore passports with stronger security and protection features such as biometric technology have also been issued. Biometric passports have a computer chip that is typically embedded with the passport holder's thumbprint.

There are also several layers of checks at checkpoints to detect stolen or forged passports, said Mr Masagos.


This article was published on April 15 in The Straits Times.

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