Published January 19, 2012
LONDON – Interpol's chief sounded an alarm Thursday that countries were still failing to check identity documents against the international police agency's database -- a warning that comes just months before the 2012 Olympics.
Ron Noble, secretary-general of the police agency based in France, said out of the 1.1 billion travelers last year, ID documents of about 500 million people were not checked against Interpol's database, which is one of the world's most detailed.
"It will take a tragedy -- a specific kind of tragedy -- for behavior to change," Noble told The Associated Press after addressing a group of foreign correspondents in London.
Noble has said Britain is the only EU country to systematically check passports against those registered with Interpol as missing worldwide. Britain carried out 140 million checks last year against the database -- more than the rest of Europe combined.
Last year, he said more than 11,000 people were caught trying to enter the U.K. using lost or stolen passports.
France carried out the second highest number at 10 million.
A special Interpol team will be sent specifically for the Olympics, helping British authorities determine whether anyone trying to enter the U.K. is wanted, whether their documents have been listed as lost or stolen and whether they are considered a threat.
The U.K. Border Agency faced intense criticism last year after passport checks were relaxed during the height of the summer tourist season to lessen lines at London's Heathrow Airport. A government report issued Thursday blamed poor communications, lack of supervision and other shortcomings for the problems.
Olympics security has been a primary concern since 1972, when 11 Israeli athletes and coaches were killed at the Munich Games.