Passports and visa fraud creating security challenge

Foreign affairs head describes difficulties presented by global travel to UN seminar

The increasing sophistication of passport and visa fraud is becoming a major challenge, a seminar to mark the 60th anniversary of Ireland’s membership of the UN has heard. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

The increasing sophistication of passport and visa fraud is becoming a major challenge, a seminar to mark the 60th anniversary of Ireland’s membership of the UN has heard. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

The growing sophistication of passport and visa fraud is presenting major challenges for the Department of Foreign Affairs, a seminar on security challenges has heard.

Niall Burgess, secretary general of the department, told the event in Dublin that the fact that Irish people were travelling farther and wider and at a younger age was also creating challenges.

On one Saturday in April, he noted, there were more than 100 Irish citizens in Nepal after a major earthquake.

The department had also assisted citizens in the aftermath of a terrorist attack which killed three Irish people in Tunisia, as well as the earthquake in New Zealand, the tsunami in Japan and the humanitarian crisis in Libya.

Dealing with fraudulent passports and visa was also a growing part of its work, he said.

Mr Burgess was participating in a panel discussion with his counterpart in the Department of Defence, Maurice Quinn, chaired by Prof Ben Tonra of the UCD School of Politics and International Relations.

Asked by Prof Tonra what single area he would choose to invest in within his department if he had an additional 7.5 per cent in resources, Mr Burgess said he would put the funding into consular support.

The policy seminar entitled New Security Challenges for the Multilateral Order at Iveagh House was part of a series to mark the 60th anniversary of Ireland’s membership of the UN.

It was opened by Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan on Thursday morning.

Other speakers included Patricia Lewis, research director for international security at Chatham House. Ms Lewis told the event that we could not rule out a third world war, or another major conflict that could indeed be global.

“To do so would be madness; it would be folly.”

Michèle Griffin, director of policy planning at the office of the secretary general at the UN, said, however, that so far the body had succeed in its purpose of preventing another world war.

Trinity College-educated Ms Griffin said many of the issues shaping the peace and security agenda went beyond our traditional definitions of peace and security.

Technology was redefining people’s lives, as well as the nature of warfare and the nature of citizens’ relationships with the state.

The world was also facing massive demographic shifts which were creating major rethinking about the human rights agenda.

By 2050 there would be nine billion people in the world, some 70 per cent of whom would live in urban areas - mainly coastal urban areas that were very vulnerable to climate change.

Some 25 per cent would be living in slums.

“The truth is that seven billion - and certainly not nine billion - people cannot consume at western levels within planetary climate limits. But that’s what people are going to expect. Governments are no more close to getting their heads around for the world.”

Ms Griffin said a “worrysome” trend for the UN was an erosion of respect for international law and international norms, as well as less acceptance by some of the emerging powers, but also by some of the very established powers, of some of the fundamental tenets of international law.