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Why Syrians Are Entering Europe With Fake Passports


European nations have made clear that they'll give preferential treatment to asylum-seekers who are escaping the Syrian civil war, and that has given rise to a lucrative market in fake Syrian passports. The European Union border patrol agency known as Frontex is monitoring this, and its spokeswoman, Ewa Moncure joins us now from Warsaw. Welcome to the program.

EWA MONCURE: Good evening.

SIEGEL: Who's getting fake Syrian passports, and what countries do those people actually come from?

MONCURE: Well, actually, quite interestingly, most fraudulent Syrian passports are used by Syrians for the variety of reasons. They are not able or not able to obtain true Syrian passports, so they are using fraudulent passports. But then when their identity is verified, it's clear that they are citizens of Syria.

SIEGEL: You say most of the people with fake Syrian documents are not fake Syrians. They really are Syrian. Why so many without passports?

MONCURE: Well, they are coming from a war-torn country. Probably many had to leave their homes rather quickly. Maybe some didn't have passports, and obtaining a Syrian passport right now - it's probably extremely difficult. Many Syrians whom we are seeing in - for example, in Greece right now have been living in - either in Syria but also in camps in Turkey, Lebanon or Jordan, and they are coming from these camps. These are people who've been on the move, sometimes for several years. These are people who some of their children were born outside Syria. And this is how long the conflict has been going on.

SIEGEL: If I presented, at the border - at a border of the EU, an expired Syrian passport that was legit but it was just out of date, would I be admitted with that as evidence that I'm Syrian?

MONCURE: Everybody is admitted when they are presented at the border. They're just being asked questions, and then they have a chance to ask for asylum or are being detained because they don't have a chance to stay in Europe. But most migrants, most irregular migrants who cross border irregularly - they arrive on boats from Turkey, or they cross a green border somewhere - they don't carry documents.

Actually, those who carry documents are an exception, and obviously we know why Syrians carry documents because when they prove when it's easy when they have Syrian documents, they are in the group of asylum-seekers, and they know that any of the European countries will give them some sort, for at least for a period of time, protection But most migrants do not have documents with them.

SIEGEL: Who's making these fake documents?

MONCURE: It's difficult to say. It's difficult to say. We know that there was a case, I believe this year, when there were over 3,000 stolen blank Syrian passports reported. So these are actually - there might be some Syrian passports in circulation that are genuine documents. They're just being used in a fraudulent manner.

SIEGEL: And the people who are selling these documents - how much are they typically charging? Do you know?

MONCURE: It's difficult to say, but this is quite expensive. People smugglers charge quite a lot for documents because obviously, that allows access to asylum or allows possibility of travel. So fraudulent documents are very expensive so not everybody can afford those, I would say. You know, they cost several thousand.

SIEGEL: Several thousand euros?


SIEGEL: So, I mean, actually, we remark all the time on what people have paid just to get on a raft to try to get to Greece or Italy, but on top of that, there may be another big payment that some of them have made.

MONCURE: Yes, yes. This is - people smuggling is an extremely lucrative business.

SIEGEL: Ewa Moncure, spokesperson for Frontex, the European Union's border control agency, thanks for talking with us.

MONCURE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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