TALLINN - The integrity of Estonian and Latvian passports has been called into question after a BBC journalist entered Britain on fake and stolen passports from the Baltic states.
Reporter Shahida Tulaganov traveled across Europe for an investigation for the Panorama program, and obtained 20 illegal passports, each from an EU country, the BBC reported.
The journalist entered Britain on the Eurostar using an Estonian passport and via boat through the port of Portsmouth on a fake Latvian passport. Despite information on stolen passports being registered in an Interpol database, her passports went undetected.
Dealers in passports advised Tulaganov to travel by sea or bus, saying port security was less stringent than airports. The fake documents ranged in price from 250 to 1,500 pounds. Some were provided within several days while others took weeks.
The journalist found her first illegal passport dealer in the center of London through an advertisement in a Russian-language newspaper. The dealer provided her with a genuine Czech passport obtained by someone who looked like her.
Tulaganov's investigation poses questions over the number of non-EU nationals entering Britain on illegal passports. She uses Poland as an example.
Since Poland joined the EU two years ago a quarter of a million of Poles have left and legally registered for work in Britain, she says. "But if my contacts are right, many of these may not have been Poles at all but illegal immigrants using fake passports."
Entering Britain on a fake or stolen passport carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail while making a false statement to obtain a passport can lead to a prison sentence of up to two years.