On Monday 23 November 2009 the Chief Inspector went on a fact-finding visit to the National Document Fraud Unit based at Heathrow Airport. The specialist unit has been operating for 35 years and is home to a team of UK experts in detecting fraudulent travel documentation. The work carried out there last year alone resulted in 7,800 false travel documents being indentified by the UK Border Agency.
The Unit is responsible for training frontline UK Border Agency staff on what to look out for and how to identify fraudulent documents, and also plays an important role in providing intelligence on emerging trends in fake documents at UK points of entry.
John was impressed by the scale of the operation at Heathrow, which is widely accepted to be an international centre of excellence in this field. He was particularly interested to hear how the unit boasts an archive of specimen genuine and forged passports from every country in the world.
“Dealing in forged travel documents is big business for criminal organisations all over the world, and what surprised me most was just how sophisticated some of theses forgeries are. The UKBA, therefore, has to be at the cutting edge of efforts to combat it – which is why I was reassured to visit this invaluable resource and see first hand how it’s working to help secure our borders.
“Visits such as these are critical for me to understand the business and help inform my inspection programme. It’s also very important that UKBA staff from across all areas of operations have the opportunity to meet me and provide an indication of where they feel my priorities should lie.”