The fraudulent use of identity and travel documents presents a serious threat to the internal security of Member States, public policy, and economy. Document and identity fraud often stands as a key enabler for many other types of cross-border crimes, such as smuggling, trafficking in human beings or terrorism. In this context, document and identity control has been recognised at EU level as a core element of border checks and a prerequisite for effective integrated management of the EU’s external borders to secure the Schengen area.
Document and Identity Fraud
Centre of Excellence in Combatting Document Fraud
To assist Member States in detecting and combating document and identity fraud, in 2018 Frontex established the Centre of Excellence in Combatting Document Fraud (CED). The Centre provides document and identity control expertise in Frontex joint operations, supporting the processing of persons at the external borders of the European Union. It acts as the primary entity for supporting operational response and coordination of related field activities, ensuring the rapid deployment of the Frontex Document Fraud Team within 48 hours to assist in emergencies related to document fraud. Being equipped with state-of-the-art technology and forensic tools to counterbalance the growing sophistication of the physical, optical, and electronic security features of travel and identity documents, the Centre allows for the provision of close to real-time support to border guards and law enforcement officers.
The Centre works closely with other entities of the Agency, contributing to risk analysis, training, research, and innovation activities. It manages two formal networks of Member States experts in document and identity control who participate in all Frontex-related projects and activities. It also nurtures cooperation and partnerships with other EU agencies, international organizations and third countries, enhancing the strategic positioning of the Agency among the primary actors in the field of document and identity control at EU and global level.
For frontline officers in charge of document authentication and confronted with new forgery phenomena, the Centre developed a reference manual containing document forgery alerts and Quick Check Cards (QCC) to serve as visual decision aids highlighting the key security features to be checked in a document. The reference manual offers concrete support in determining the authenticity of the document under scrutiny.
The Quick Check Cards developed for the reference manual lie at the heart of the Frontex-INTERPOL Electronic Library Document System (FIELDS), a joint initiative between INTERPOL and Frontex launched in 2022 following a multi-year design and development project, which allows for the consultation of document-related datasets and the availability of information and document fraud expertise at passport control booths or via mobile applications.
The Centre is currently working on the future False and Authentic Document Online (FADO) system, as provided for by Regulation (EU) 2020/493, under the guidance of the European Commission and Member States. Capitalising on the knowledge of the General Secretariat of the Council of the EU, which runs the current FADO system, the technical development of FADO will start at the beginning of 2024, taking a couple of years before the system is operational.