• Flexi Group

Camouflage passports are a mysterious world.

"He has a hand grenade pin in his pocket and is prepared to blow up the plane if necessary. 

TWA Flight 847 was hijacked on June 14, 1985, and the world was shocked.

It was a tense 17-day horror show that saw Americans targeted for beatings by their Hezbollah captors and the cold-blooded death of United States Navy diver Robert Dean Stethem.


Donna Walker, a retired travel agent from Houston, Texas, saw the horrors unfold on live television with millions of others. Walker thought it was finally time to put an idea she'd had a few years ago into action as she did so.


"It's not a forgery; it's camouflage," says the narrator.


For American tourists, the 1980s were a difficult time. Terrorism has becoming more targeted towards people. 1985 was dubbed "a year of hijackings, kidnappings, car bombs, and murder" by the New York Times. However, things had been deteriorating before to that.


The American Embassy in Tehran had been subjected to a 444-day detention of over 50 Americans by militarized students six years prior to TWA Flight 847. Walker originally came up with the idea for a "camouflage passport" during this episode.


A fake passport falsely states that the holder is a citizen of a specific nation in order to allow them to cross borders unlawfully.


However, the camouflage passport utilized the name of a former nation that has since been renamed for to political reasons. It wasn't even for crossing borders.

If someone were in a life-threatening scenario, Walker speculated, they might provide their attackers with a genuine-looking paper indicating they were from, say, Rhodesia, rather than the United States.


The aggressors would be persuaded that this hostage lacked political clout, allowing them to be treated more humanely.


Walker told Time magazine in October 1987 that she'd proven she could make fake passports from "Ceylon" since Sri Lanka, the nation Ceylon became in 1972, no longer claimed the name. From the British West Indies to Zaire, the same criteria applied to any former nation.


Walker started selling the passports for $135 each through her firm, International Documents Services (offering a 30 percent discount for armed forces members). According to Time, the documents seemed to be genuine: "Its burgundy, textured-vinyl cover is emblazoned with gold lettering that says, PASSPORT, REPUBLIC OF CEYLON."


Walker emphasized, "It's not counterfeit; it's camouflage." The State Department, it appears, had no objections to US individuals holding the passports.


180 made-up passports

Walker's idea for a fake passport wasn't exactly novel. According to Tom Topol, the owner of the Passport Collector website, documents that defy the laws have saved countless lives over the years.


The "Schutz-Passes" were Swedish passports provided to Hungarians by ambassador Raoul Wallenberg at a period when 10,000 Hungarian Jews were deported to the death chambers every day. Despite the fact that the certificates were essentially useless as passports, they were generally recognized by Nazi officials, preventing the deportation of thousands of Hungarians to their deaths.

The "Schutz-Pass" employed the pretense of another nationality to enable the bearer avoid immediate danger, similar to the notion of camouflage passports. Which raises the issue of whether any of Walker's camouflage passports ever performed what they were designed to do: save a life.


We know the notion has taken off, at least in part.

For one reason, Walker said that in 1987, she had already sold 350 camouflage passports, many of which were to US government officers. There are a lot of camouflage passports on the European Commission's list of 180 "fake" passports, including Dutch Guiana, Eastern Samoa, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the Gilbert Islands, and many others.


A similar (now-deleted) list from the UK's HM Passport Office confirmed that camouflage passports were "sometimes discovered."


According to Jeffrey A. Schoenblum's 2008 book "Multistate and Multinational Estate Planning," some German businesspeople, fearful of how they would be received in other countries after the fall of the Berlin Wall, carried camouflage passports to "avoid unpleasantness... in certain parts of Europe with long memories."


There's also a rumor that during the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, a group of European oil executives used camouflage passports to flee to Jordan.

It's not simple to find something waterproof, though. "We do not maintain any data on the attempted use of camouflage and fantasy passports," a US State Department source tells CNN Travel. "We don't offer camouflage passports therefore would not be able to provide feedback," said HM Passport Office.

According to Topol, one reason proof is so scant on the ground is that where camouflage passports have worked, it hasn't been disclosed for the individual's protection and security.


Today's passports are camouflaged.

So, what happened to the camouflage passports? Are they still in use?

Camouflage passport packages, complete with a fake driver's license or other ID, may be found on the internet for $400 to $1,000, according to Barney Brantingham of the Santa Barbara Independent in 2007. Now fast forward 14 years, and locating them isn't so easy.


International Documents Services is no longer operating, and there is no legitimate-looking website publicly selling camouflage passports.

Despite the fact that they appear to be real. According to a representative from Personal Safety London, which specializes in global travel safety, it is still technically legal to have a camouflage passport in countries like Australia, New Zealand, and the European Union, as long as it is used solely for self-preservation in a life-or-death situation.


The problem is that such records may no longer be as persuasive as they were 30 years ago. "With the introduction of biometric papers and developments in document security measures like as watermarks and sophisticated holograms incorporated in ID cards, portraying a camouflage passport as a legitimate document has grown more challenging," says a spokeswoman for Personal Safety London.


You'll have a better chance of finding one of the camouflage passport's cousins. Return to the European Commission's list of fictitious passports and look for the part under "Fantasy passports."


You'll find things like "Hare Krishna Sect," "Dukedom of New Sealand," and "Conch Republic Passport" here.


The Conch Republic, like all of these fictitious passport identities, was never a recognized country; it's an alternate identity for the Florida Keys that arose from a legal dispute with the US government in 1982.


Residents of the Florida Keys said they were being "alienated as Americans," and tossed conch fritters and water balloons at a US Coastguard vessel. The Conch Republic passport, which is still in demand today, was another act of solidarity that sprang from the upheaval. You may have a "international-quality, thread-sewn" document for just $100.


Despite the genuine appearance of fantasy passports — gold embossed crests, headshots, personal information, and room for immigration stamps — don't expect to be waved through by border control. This isn't how they're supposed to be used. However, there is a twist in the story.


Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the FBI allegedly approached the Conch Republic's secretary-general, suspecting that one of the airline hijackers, Mohammad Atta, could have entered the US with a Conch Republic passport.

Other accounts claim that fantasy passports may have been utilized for malicious purposes, which is the polar opposite of why camouflage passports were invented in the first place.


By Flexi Team


*DISCLAIMER: This article and its publication are intended to provide a brief introduction and act as a general guide. This is provided for information purposes only and cannot be utilized as a substitute for professional advice. This document does not represent a legal opinion and one must not rely on it without receiving independent advice based on the particular facts of its own case. No responsibility is accepted by the author or the publishers for any loss suffered from acting or refraining from acting based on the contents of this publication.

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