Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs has expressed its concern with regards to the “significant and increasingly sophisticated” threat of Irish passport fraud.

In briefing notes, seen by the Irish Times, Minister Charlie Flanagan has warned of the urgent need for changes to the passport application system, which is currently paper-based. The department has called the current system inadequate and said it fails to deal with the increase in demand.

Flanagan, has been urged by the Ministry to invest in the latest anti-fraud technology and techniques to protect the “integrity and international standing of the Irish passport,” according to the Irish Times.

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A departmental fraud section has been established and investigations are under way into “fraudulently obtained genuine passports.” The police have also launched an initiative called Operation Refresh, dedicated to these fraud cases.

The Department of Foreign Affairs says that the Irish passport has become a “preferred device for money-laundering and other criminal activities.”

From 2000 to 2015 the number of passports issued rose from 338,000 to 670,000. It’s predicted that this figure could rise to 730,000 this year.

The Department’s briefing notes also advised Flanagan of the Irish effort to avoid the United Kingdom leaving the European Union. The Department believes the UK’s membership of the EU is in Ireland’s best interest and that their exit would have an adverse impact on both the EU and Irish economies.

The British referendum is on June 23. With 601,917 Irish born people living in the UK it’s believed that the Irish could have a significant impact on the result of the vote.

Just last month Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs had good news with regards to their new passport card, which includes optical security technology and a fraud prevention chip, which won an international design award, for the Regional Best ID Document of the Year Award 2016 by Reconnaissance International. The award recognized the passport card for its innovative design, the combination of state-of-the-art technologies and a unique mobile application process.

The credit-card sized card is the first and only passport card deployed in the EU. It is similar to the National Identity Cards seen elsewhere in the EU. However, Ireland’s passport card is acceptable to be used for international travel within the EU and European Economic Area (EEA).

Upon winning the award Austin Gormley, Director of Passport Services at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Ireland, told Silicon Republic, “We are delighted to receive this prestigious international award, which recognizes the quality and innovation of the card, and the benefit it delivers to our citizens.

He added, “It is also a tribute to the technical capabilities within Ireland.”

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