Greece remained in sixth place, tied with Australia and Belgium, for the world’s most powerful passports, according to the Henley Passport Index.
Japan, who moved up to a tie with Singapore for first, knocked Germany off the top spot on the list of the world’s most powerful passport, according to the new research, while the UK fell from third to fourth.
The United States was tied for fifth with Canada, Ireland and Switzerland. The ranking by the company, a citizenship, and planning firm, takes into consideration how many countries can be visited without applying for a visa.
Greeks can travel to 174 countries around the world without applying for a visa, while Japanese citizens can travel to a record 189 out of a possible 218, most recently Uzbekistan, with Germans being able to visit 188 and Britons 186.
Despite the strength of Greece’s passports, so many were being forged that Greeks in 2017 flying into German airports were taken out of line for further scrutiny and checks, including New Democracy Conservative leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
Mitsotakis, leader of the New Democracy Conservatives, said he and fellow passengers from Greece were put under severe scrutiny just because they were Greeks as Germany continued screening even though both countries are part of the Schengen agreement allowing free travel between European Union countries.
“I felt humiliated as a Greek when I was taken into a different terminal and waited for 20 minutes to have my passport checked,” Mitsotakis told an event at the Bruegel think-tank in Brussels on Responsibility to Reform Europe.
A German newspaper said stepped-up security checks of passengers from Greece were being done because of an increasing number of forged passports and documents allegedly being used by refugees and migrants trying to reach other European Union countries which shut their borders to them.
Frontex and Europol reported increased numbers of third country nationals – including Mideast war refugees – with forged passports and IDs attempting to reach European airports aboard flights emanating from Greece, the newspaper Bild said.
Residents of European Union countries don’t even need passports to travel between countries in the so-called Schengen Area which is supposed to be borderless but Greece is being targeted even though its biometric passports were ranked sixth safest in the world.
But the newspaper said both European law enforcement agencies found a big jump in the number of people trying to fly out of Greece with bogus travel documents without an explanation of how they got through security at Greek airports.
Bild said 429 passengers from Greece were intercepted at European airports with forged passports in the first three months of the year and 729 in the second quarter. There was no word on whether they were prosecuted or what happened to them or why there hasn’t been stepped-up coordination with Greek officials apart from Greece sending its own police to help German officials screen passengers at airports there.
The travelers from Greece were said to be trying to get into Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Belgium and that most of them came from Syria, Afghanistan, Turkey, Albania and Eritrea.
Bild reported that Syrians mostly use Greek or Italian IDs, or German and Syrian passports while most Afghans attempting to illegally enter another European country carrying forged French and South Korean passports.
Greece is overrun with more than 64,000 refugees and migrants, including more than 15,000 on Greek islands near the coast of Turkey which has allowed human traffickers to keep sending them despite signing a swap deal with the EU that’s been suspended because of an overwhelming number of asylum applications.