Travel Document Security:
Combating terrorism and safeguarding identity
Improving travel document security throughout the OSCE region is a core activity of the Organization's counter-terrorism work since 2003.
Requests for OSCE travel document security assistance have been steadily increasing and supported by relevant OSCE Ministerial Council Decisions. The Action against Terrorism Unit (ATU) has broadened the scale and scope of its assistance accordingly.
To date the ATU organized more than 50 travel document security capacity building events, involving more than 1500 participants from over 60 countries. They were primarily financed through contributions by Norway, the United States of America and Spain, but also other donors such as the Czech Republic, Germany, Canada, Lithuania and Kazakhstan.
OSCE Travel Document Security assistance seeks to ensure that document security in the OSCE region meets International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards and specifications. In addition, the programme addresses weaknesses in the issuance process which compromise the security of travel documents. Providing border control personnel and check points with the skills and technology to detect fraudulent travel documents or those flagged in INTERPOL databases, is yet another work area of the OSCE travel document security programme.
Partners for implementation of the programme include ICAO and INTERPOL. Co-operation with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is enhanced through the ICAO Implementation and Capacity Building Working Group (ICBWG), an ideal forum where new initiatives can be discussed to ensure a co-ordinated response. The OSCE travel document programme represents a platform where standards, expertise and financial contributions come together to provide capacity building opportunities.
Currently OSCE Travel Document Security activities promote the use of electronic documents and the ICAO Public Key Directory (PKD), enhance handling and issuance procedures, facilitate the connection to INTERPOL databases and seek to improve the detection of forged documents.
Promoting the use of Electronic Documents and the ICAO Public Key Directory (PKD)
The ATU assists OSCE participating States in upgrading technological security features of travel documents to prevent them from being forged/counterfeited. Central here is the need to identify that the person holding a passport is indeed the authorized bearer and that the data contained in the document is certified as accurate.
In the wake of a 2003 OSCE Ministerial Council Decision on travel document security, numerous OSCE participating States have introduced and enhanced Machine Readable Travel Document (MRTD) issuing systems. So called electronic passports which contain chips storing personal and biometric data have been the major focus of such MRTD upgrades.
According to ICAO, 54 OSCE participating States and Partners for Co-operation currently issue electronic Machine Readable Passports (eMRPs). Globally ICAO calculates that more than 65 million ePassports are issued annually.
The growing use of electronic travel documents underscores the benefits of joining and using the ICAO Public Key Directory (PKD). The directory allows national authorities to validate the authenticity of electronic security features and biometric data stored on eMRTDs and to detect any attempt to alter or add additional data to the chip. This multilateral verification system can potentially replace numerous bilateral agreements and exchange mechanisms.
In 2009, OSCE participating States recognized the importance of strengthening and streamlining international co-operation and took a political commitment to join the PKD. The ATU is actively assisting them in their endeavour.
seminars on promoting the ICAO Public Key Directory in Uzbekistan (2010), Moldova (2012), Kyrgyzstan (2012) and Albania (2012);
an OSCE Workshop on promoting the ICAO Public Key Directory, which convened 53 OSCE participating States to learn about the benefits of comprehensively validating electronic passports, in Vienna in May 2010;
training on promoting the ICAO Public Key Directory in Tashkent in 2010;
four national specific workshops in Serbia (2006), Uzbekistan (2007), Bosnia and Herzegovina (2008) and Belarus (2009) focusing on new document technology, handling and issuance, and connection to INTERPOL databases;
assessment visits and trainings by ICAO and INTERPOL experts to provide technical advice and recommendations to requesting participating States with regard to new security features, enhancements and standards for travel documents.
a joint ATU/ICAO conference in Vienna in March 2004,and a follow-up OSCE-wide workshop in Vienna in July 2007, both of which were aimed at senior national officials working on travel document security;
Enhancing Handling and Issuance Procedures
As it becomes increasingly difficult to falsify or alter travel documents especially eMRTDs once issued, terrorists and criminals increasingly use fake identities to obtain genuine travel documents by abusing weaknesses in national authorities' handling and issuance procedures.
To combat this threat, the OSCE has developed a standardized assistance package based on ICAO standards for handling and issuance to minimize the risk of terrorists applying for a genuine travel document under a false identity. Tailored to the requirements of the individual country, these activities include needs assessment missions to identify gaps in the handling and issuance procedures and options for rectification, trainings as well as workshops.
Recognizing that eMRTDs can only be as secure as documents "feeding" into it, future activities will increasingly need to focus on establishing better practices for national identity management. This will be done through strengthening evidence of identity - breeder documents, civil registry systems and other media used to verify and/or validate a travel document applicant's identity. The international standardization of breeder documents such as identity cards and birth certificates would significantly enhance the issuance process. Similarly identity management systems will have to be bolstered to streamline the decision making process of travel document issuers as issuance systems are modernized to keep pace with document technology.
a joint OSCE-IOM Programme on Enhancing Identity Management and Travel Document Security in Tajikistan (2013-2014);
four workshops on the ICAO Minimum Security Standards for Handling and Issuance of Passports, three regional ones held in 2005 and 2006 in Sofia, Almaty and Vilnius; and a national one in Turkey in 2009;
a regional workshop for the Mediterranean Region in 2007, which placed an emphasis on encouraging the OSCE Mediterranean Partners for Co-operation to implement on a voluntary basis the OSCE commitments in the area of travel document security;
a joint OSCE-IOM Programme on Enhancing Identity Management and Travel Document Security in Tajikistan (ongoing)
Connecting to INTERPOL Databases
The ATU promotes and offers assistance to OSCE participating States designed to enable them to connect to existing INTERPOL databases for Stolen/Lost Travel Documents Database (SLTD), Stolen Motor Vehicles (SMV), Wanted Individuals (Nominals) and Travel Documents Associated With a Notice (TDAWN). The focus of activities in this area is to bring real-time connectivity to the border control inspection officer.
Activities include training sessions designed to raise awareness of the benefits and options of real-time access to the INTERPOL databases. In addition, the OSCE in co-ordination with the Norwegian Police and the INTERPOL General Secretariat (IPSG) has launched technical assistance projects that provide the actual hardware, software, web services and the required infrastructure needed to connect to these databases, and offered training in using these components.
Large-scale multi-year technical assistance projects in Moldova (completed), Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan (ongoing) providing border control points real-time access to INTERPOL databases, thereby enhancing border management systems in order to better capture, verify, share and analyze information on cross-border movements; as well as promoting regular and rapid reporting mechanisms for data to INTERPOL.
Detecting Forged Documents
False travel documents are a principal means for terrorists and other criminals to ply their trade. Counterfeiting travel documents (including customs documents) allows such individuals to cross borders undetected and to move illegal goods from country to country. Developing border control capacities for efficient detection of forged documents is therefore central to combating terrorism, trafficking and organized crime.
The ATU offers training to border police and customs officials to improve operational and analytical capacities to detect forged travel documents. This approach focuses on the human element and merges it with modern technology such as real time access to INTERPOL databases.
five regional workshops on combating the use of fraudulent and counterfeit travel documents held in 2003 and 2004 in Ohrid, Bishkek, Zagreb, Tallinn and Tashkent;
intensive training courses to help improve capacities of border police and customs officials to detect forged documents in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in 2007; Montenegro, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan in 2008; Turkmenistan (twice), Belarus and Tajikistan in 2009; in co-operation with the OSCE Mission in Kosovo in 2009; Moldova, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan (twice) in 2010; in Kyrgyzstan in 2011; in co-operation with the OSCE Border Management Staff College for Afghan border control officers twice in 2010 and once in 2012;
a seminar in 2010 at the OSCE Border Management Staff College entitled Border Control - Detection of Forged Travel Documents and Traveller Profiling.
For more information, please contact the ATU directly.