Visa-free NZ passports sought after

MICHAEL FIELD, SIOBHAN DOWNES, KATIE KENNY
Last updated 05:00 11/03/2014

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Thousands of New Zealand passports are stolen or lost each year, the Department of Internal Affairs says.

Passport theft has been highlighted by the events around the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 which is missing in the South China Sea. Two of the passengers on board were using stolen European Union passports.

A spokesman for the Department of Internal Affairs said that last year 600,000 passports were issued, and it had been told of 8182 lost ones and 2117 stolen ones.

The incidence of stolen passports was relatively small compared with the number issued, he said.

"The New Zealand Passport is highly prized as passport holders enjoy visa-free access to more than 50 countries."

An Immigration New Zealand (INZ) spokeswoman said 36 false passports - including stolen ones - were detected at border control during the 2012-13 year and 1696 people were denied permission to board.

INZ could access the Interpol database via New Zealand Police, she said.

INZ used an advanced passenger processing system to validate passengers' travel to or through New Zealand.

Passenger information was screened against INZ's database during check-in, which told the airline whether the traveller was safe to board.

If there was an "alert" next to the passport number, the holder would not be allowed to board. 

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- Fairfax Media

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