Iraqi embassy in huge passport blunder

The Iraqi embassy in Stockholm has admitted issuing 26,000 passports based on false documentation to asylum seekers in Sweden and Norway. Migration minister Tobias Billström is set to meet his Norwegian counterpart in Oslo on Wednesday to discuss the matter.

Details surrounding the fraudulent passport applications first emerged in Norwegian press after police cracked a forgery ring in Oslo. The Iraqi ambassador to Sweden informed Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten that the embassy had issued passports based on false documentation simply because it did not have the resources to check the authenticity of the paperwork.

“We have known for a long time that the Iraqi embassy has been issuing passports on false premises, but what can we do about it? This is a question for the foreign ministry. They know about this. We have presented the information in various reports,” Bengt Hellström from the Swedish Migration Board told Metro.

He added that the Migration Board has received numerous tip-offs over the last two years suggesting that people from Syria, Iran, Turkey and Lebanon have been able to get passports from the Iraqi embassy.

Gustaf Lind, secretary of state at the justice department, says that his department has known about the problem for a month.

“What we have done is to get civil servants at the justice department and the Migration Board to check out the information. We haven’t really formed a judgment yet but the foreign ministry has called the Iraqi ambassador in to discuss the matter on Wednesday,” said Lind.

The Migration Board received reports in autumn of last year that a certain type of Iraqi passport in circulation was of inferior quality and relatively easy to manipulate.

“We are looking into whether we should approve this type of passport. We will probably make a decision in February,” said Marianne Andersson, a spokeswoman for the Migration Board.

She adds that a number of EU countries – UK, Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg – have already decided not to approve the type of passport in question.

“The passport itself may be authentic but it may not be clear whether individuals really are who they claim to be,” said Andersson.