PARIS, March 28 -- Malaysia's decision not to consult Interpol's database before allowing travellers to enter the country or board planes cannot be defended by its Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi's claim that this could slow down the process of immigration check, the Lyon-based agency said Friday.
"Interpol's SLTD (Stolen and Lost Travel Documents) database takes just seconds to reveal whether a passport is listed, with recent tests providing results in 0.2 seconds," the agency said in a statement.
The Malaysian home minister said Wednesday that Malaysia's immigration authorities had skipped checks against SLTD database as it could have slowed down clearance of passengers.
Not one of the countries who consult millions of times per year this database, such as the United States, Britain, and Singapore, or any other Interpol member, "has ever stated that the response time is too slow," the statement said.
The statement added that Malaysia's Immigration Department did not conduct a single check of passengers' passports against Interpol's database in 2014 prior to the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.
The Lyon-based agency confirmed on March 9 that at least two passports recorded in its SLTD database were used by passengers on board the missing flight, which triggered an international speculation that this accident could be linked with terrorism.
The speculation was later dispelled on March 11 by Interpol's confirmation of the identities of the two Iranian nationals who used the stolen passports to board the plane, and who had no criminal record before leaving Iran.
Interpol's SLTD database, created in 2002 following the 9/11 attacks, is aimed at helping countries secure their borders and protect their citizens from terrorists and other dangerous criminals known to use fraudulent travel documents.
By screening travel document against Interpol's SLTD database, the enquirer will be alerted to any documents which have been reported lost or stolen and which may represent a security threat, the statement noted.
But "few member countries systematically search Interpol's databases to determine whether a passenger is using a stolen or lost travel document to board a plane," according to Interpol.
In 2013, less than 20 of Interpol's 190 members systematically checked passports of international travellers against Interpol's databases.
In order to ensure a safe travel, Interpol Secretary General Ronald K. Noble called on governments and airlines worldwide to "learn from this tragedy ... and begin to screen all passengers' passports prior to allowing them to board flights."