60,000 Finnish passports 'gone'

PT       2004-02-06 
About 60 000 valid Finnish passports are missing, and many of them are thought to have been stolen, border officials revealed on Friday.

"About 60 000 passports, which are still valid, have been reported missing in recent years," said Matti Lalaukka, a lieutenant commander in the Finnish Frontier.

While it is impossible to know how many passports have been stolen and how many have simply been lost, Lalaukka pointed out that Finnish passports were very attractive in many criminal circles.

"It's quite easy to travel with the Finnish passport, like with passports from other Nordic countries.

"Our reputation is good, and most (passport controllers) don't speak Finnish or know anything about Finland, so it's hard for them to decide if the passport holder is, in fact, from Finland or not," Lalaukka said.

"Finns also don't need visas to many countries," he added.

In addition, Finnish citizens can, as members of the European Union, travel freely throughout most of Europe without even having to show their passport.

In Helsinki alone, about 1 500 Finnish passports are reported missing each year, said Lalaukka said.