Fewer fake passports being found by UK's border force

UK Border Agency staff The figures were revealed after a Freedom of Information request by the BBC

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The number of forged passports detected at ports and airports across the UK has almost halved in the past five years.

A Freedom of Information request by the BBC showed that border officials spotted 1,858 forgeries last year compared to 3,300 in 2007.

The UK's border force said this was partly down to improved security measures and fraud checks.

But some staff have claimed a cut in border security numbers was the reason for fewer fake passports being found.

The number of people employed by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) has dropped by about 4,000 in the past two years, although many of these were not in document-checking roles.

One explanation for the reduction in detections suggested by a Heathrow passport control officer was job cuts.

He told the BBC's The World This Weekend programme that because there were fewer staff he and his colleagues had to be less thorough.

'Sophisticated people'

However, the UK Border Agency (UKBA) said it had become harder for criminals to forge documents because of the use of biometric data in passports and more rigorous checks before people arrived in the UK.

UKBA chief executive Rob Whiteman said: "Overall we're doing a good job in that we're constantly finding more forgeries overseas.

"The amount, therefore, that we detect at the border, there is a long-term trend of that falling but that's because we're so successful in finding it overseas and stopping forged documents getting to the UK in the first place."

Home Affairs Select Committee chairman, Labour MP Keith Vaz, warned against complacency over the passport fakers.

He said: "These are very, very sophisticated people. We're not dealing with some granny somewhere in the world who says 'I want to get in'. We're dealing with gangs of people who are making billions of pounds out of forged passports and that's why our system has to be very secure."

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