Questions are being raised towards immigration officials in Kuala Lumpur airport, after it was known that the two passengers, who reportedly travelled in the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 using stolen European passports, were of Asian features.
Malaysia's Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi criticised the border officials late on Sunday for failing to notice that the two passengers who used stolen passports of an Austrian and Italian actually looked like Asians, Straits Times reported.
"I am still perturbed. Can't these immigration officials think? Italian and Austrian but with Asian faces," he was quoted by state news agency Bernama as saying.
An internal investigation on the Immigration Department has also commenced following reports that the two passengers travelling in the plane had stolen passports.
"We will conduct an internal probe, particularly on the officers, who were on duty at the KLIA Immigration Counter during flight MH370."
"I am still puzzled how come immigration officers cannot think, an Italian and Austrian (passengers) but with Asian facial features," he told reporters.
On Saturday, Italian and Austrian authorities confirmed that passports of Christian Kozel and Luigi Maraldi, whose names appeared on the list of the MH370 manifest, had both been stolen in Thailand. There are also unconfirmed reports that the two men using the stolen passports had bought their tickets for the airline from the Thai city of Pattaya.
The theft was registered in Interpol's database and was only available to law enforcement authorities. And "few member countries have systematically searched Interpol's databases," the agency said according to China's Xinhua News agency.
Interpol has a list of 40 million stolen passports and both Christian Kozel and Luigi Maraldi's passports were in that database, various reports said.
Malaysian Home Minister's comment that the immigration officers were to be blamed because they allowed people with Asian features using European passports, is however, likely to be controversial as people could possibly see it through a racial point of view.
There are many European citizens with Asian heritage and facial features and therefore, there was no substantial reason why the officers should have doubted that the two people concerned were not what they posed to be. But to say that the two people looked like Asians and had European passports could be potentially dubbed as a racial slur.
(Edited by Anu James)