Frontex established the Centre of Excellence for Combatting Document Fraud in 2018 to assist Member States in spotting and counteracting various illegal uses of fraudulent document – which is often an essential part of other crimes, such as smuggling of contraband, trafficking in human beings and terrorism.
For years, Frontex has deployed document fraud experts in joint operations at the EU external borders, and supported the process of identifying and registering migrants in hotspots. Our expertise in this area is crucial to Europe’s security and continues to gain in importance because of criminal groups’ growing sophistication in the use of fake documents.
Passports and other forms of ID are becoming increasingly difficult to forge thanks to state-of-the-art security features such as complex laser perforations or microchips with photos and fingerprints. But criminals never stop improving their game. New methods include obtaining authentic travel documents under false pretences, using such documents as fake birth or marriage certificates to obtain real documents or using authentic documents of look-alikes. Both strategies use real documents, making it increasingly difficult for law enforcement officers to spot. Some forgers have also begun to use advanced counterfeiting techniques to circumvent automated border control.
The Centre’s primary task is to provide support for combatting document fraud in Frontex joint operations. We have developed a reference manual for border guards containing images of passports, identity cards, and visas, to help them determine whether the document in front of them is genuine.
It contributes to the work of a number of Frontex units, including risk analysis, training and research and innovation. It will also improve the operational response to specific threats observed at the external border, based on information from these units.
We have more than a dozen document experts from Member States who can be deployed within two working days to assist in emergencies related to document fraud. We also manage a group of 85 experts in document fraud and forensics from the Member States who participate in all related projects and activities coordinated by Frontex.
Members of the group can train officials in non-EU countries in detecting document fraud and help develop analytical reports, workshops, and training manuals for Member States.