Two Faces of the New Europe; in the Former Eastern Bloc. on Sale for Just [Pounds Sterling]50, the EU Outsiders' Passports to Britain

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID WILLIAMS

WHEN ten new nations join the EU on Saturday, it will not just be their workers taking the opportunity to flock to Britain unhindered.

A thriving black market has already sprung up in documents which prove citizenship of one of the New Ten countries.

These are being bought for as little as [pounds sterling]50 by would-be immigrants from states still outside the EU, who will use them to get to Britain.

Immigration officers have been warned to be on the alert for them.

But since many of the documents involved are genuine rather than forgeries, they face a difficult task weeding out the bogus arrivals.

According to intelligence sources, the main problem will be from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova, which remain outside the European Union.

Their citizens are expected to travel on documents obtained from the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Poland, Latvia and Lithuania, which make up the New Ten along with Hungary, Slovakia, Estonia, Cyprus and Malta. This will add to the massive burden facing the Immigration Service as it prepares for the arrival of thousands seeking work legitimately.

A Daily Mail survey of embassies and community groups in Britain from the New Ten estimated those they thought were considering coming here for work in the next year at up to 250,000, dwarfing the Government's estimate of 13,000.

The Home Office is running forgery familiarisation courses as staff urgently seek to become used to handling ten new sets of identification documents.

Each have their own built-in identification marks and an analysis has been carried out to see how easy these are to 'clone' or forge.

One problem, officers say, is that many of the ID papers are genuine but made out in the identities of nationals outside the EU not entitled to them.

Another is that some of the documents used by those travelling from Baltic countries may be in Cyrillic script derived from the Greek alphabet.

Officials, who had been warned in a circular they must 'maintain their high standards' at a time of close media attention, say that certain flights will be targeted.

They are warning of travel delays over the Bank Holiday weekend because of the high numbers of arrivals expected with many flights and coaches from Eastern Europe booked up already and the socalled-Light Touch' policy of nodding-through EU nationals without physically examining their documents abandoned because of terrorism concerns.

Immigration officers at ports are now meant to handle all passports, 'swipe' them to check they are genuine and check the name against a 'warning index' of those of interest to the police and MI5.

The worrying ease with which documents can be obtained is illustrated in the Latvian capital Riga, which has a large Russian minority, where adverts for agencies dealing in fake passports and documents have been appearing for weeks. …