Astute observers will notice that near the bottom of the photo collage in my blog post the other day about fake documentation was a “Northern Ireland” (aka Norn Iron) passport.

A camouflage Northern Ireland passportI can just imagine James Bond or Jason Bourne getting a tad pissed off if his boss gave him a Norn Iron passport and it didn’t work at the heavily guarded border crossing to North Korea or, er, east Pettigo.

Some websites offer these very documents as part of a range of “camouflage passports” from “fictional or defunct nations”. As one of these sites puts it…

These have been used for years by travellers as an alternative identification when using your real passport would be imprudent or dangerous.

Yes indeed. Imprudent. Or even impudent. Having a problem entering a country where your UK passport is a liability? Simply whip out your Norn Iron passport and you’ll be safe as houses.

Camouflage passports (or “CPs” in the trade) might have serious uses though – and plenty of plot potential in crime or war fiction or satire. For example, during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait a group of European oil executives used camouflage passports to pass through Iraqi checkpoints and escape to Jordan.

As one company that used to provide such documents explains:

When American travellers became prime targets of hijacking and international terrorism on an ever increasing scale, CPs were invented to afford them some additional security. The idea was to present a potential hijacker with a valid looking, non-American document to hide one’s identity. Thus, it was supposed, terrorists might pick someone else to harp upon, to take hostage or even to kill. CPs were never intended to be used as actual travelling documents at border controls, etc…

They also go on to explain that CPs are absolutely legal, “but” – wait for a nice big BUT here – “it all depends on how you use them”. Oh. Never thought of that.

These documents are novelty items which are sold in some countries including the United States and Canada. As long as they are not used in any illegal manner, you will certainly not get into any trouble. However, don’t try to use it as an official document like opening bank accounts and never try it out in a traffic stop. CPs should be used in a discrete, unobtrusive manner where absolutely necessary, holding it in reserve for hard times i.e. emergencies. May you never actually need it – but you may never go unprepared, either!

Fantasy passports

The camouflage passport is not to be confused with the “fantasy passport”, such as the following excellent one that Moss Reid got cobbled together for the Independent Republic of Stoneybatter, aka Cowtown…

A passport for the Independent Republic of Cowtown

If your boss does offer you a fantasy passport for your next overseas mission, decline immediately. Unless, of course, you’re a fictional character in a fantasy fiction.

The EU regulates this area of camouflage and fantasy passports using a sort of checklist (PDF version here) with the snappy title of “INFORMATION CONCERNING THE NON-EXHAUSTIVE LIST OF KNOWN FANTASY AND CAMOUFLAGE PASSPORTS, AS STIPULATED BY ARTICLE 6 OF THE DECISION NO 1105/2011/EU (to which a visa may not be affixed) BASED OF INFORMATION RECEIVED FROM THE MEMBER STATES UNTIL 29.01.2014”.

I tried to tell them that block caps was shouting, but did they listen? Did they heck.

(To be continued)