Belgium unveils 'fake-proof' passports
17 May 2004, BRUSSELS - In a bid to end repeated criticisms that the world market in illegal travel documents is awash with fake and stolen Belgian passports, the Belgian Foreign Minister on Monday unveiled a brand new passport that he insisted was almost impossible to copy.
17 May 2004
BRUSSELS - In a bid to end repeated criticisms that the world market in illegal travel documents is awash with fake and stolen Belgian passports, the Belgian Foreign Minister on Monday unveiled a brand new passport that he insisted was almost impossible to copy.
Foreign Minister Louis Michel explained that the new high-tech passports would be issued to Belgian citizens from next year onwards.
The documents include a special microchip that contains 'biometric' information about the their owner, Michel told journalists.
Biometric data can include iris scans, fingerprints and details about the passport holder's face.
According to the Foreign Ministry, the biometric chips will make the passports almost impossible to forge, as every document will be uniquely matched to its owner.
The new Belgian passports are part of a European Union-wide initiative to introduce a new range of high-tech, ultra-secure travel documents across the EU by 2005.
But not everyone is happy with the idea of biometric passports.
Many civil liberties campaigners are also worried that governments are now trying systematically to gather far too much personal data on their citizens.
EU civil liberties watchdog 'Statewatch' for example has said the new passports represent a worrying step along "the road to 1984," referring to George Orwell's classic novel of life in a futuristic surveillance state.
Belgium has been working hard to counter criticisms that it passports are too easy to forge ever since 2001 when suicide bombers posing as television journalists and carrying fake Belgian passports murdered former Afghan rebel leader Commander Massoud.
The United States has raised particular concerns about the reliability of Belgian passports.
Washington is not only concerned about fake documents but also about a large number of genuine blank Belgian passports that have been stolen in recent years.
[Copyright Expatica 2004]
Subject: Belgian news