The experience of a woman, who found when trying to collect her machine readable passport that someone else had fraudulently had one made with the same number, is frightening. Alarmingly, the authorities were in the dark for almost two years until the victim, upon returning to the country from abroad went to collect her MRP, and uncovered the fraudulence.
This only exposes the systemic and security flaws in the passport issuance system. And what this also shows is the lack of periodic assessment of the system to check the competence of its workings.
This is particularly worrying in light of a Department of Immigration and Passport's internal probe finding last year that one syndicate alone had issued at least 170 official passports between November 2014 and April 2015. One DIP director, one assistant director and two employees were suspended for their involvement in the scam. A similar incident involving DIP officials last month again exposed the forgery and distribution of official passports to private citizens, showing that the system, even when it comes to official passports, is in no way full proof, though it should be.
This may well endanger national security, as militants and extremists, among others, may use forged passports to travel freely and unobtrusively. Given that innocent civilians may, in fact, also get into trouble because of such forgeries, the authorities concerned immediately needs to act on such concerns and strengthen the passport issuance system in general. The errant officers in the system should also be held to account.