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EUROPE: Human Traffickers Grounded in 29 Country Sweep of Airports and Roads

From November 8-12, Europol supported large-scale international action against trafficking in human beings. 29 countries, led by Austria and Romania, took part in the action days, which were coordinated by Europol and Frontex. The activities saw more than 14,000 law enforcement officers target trafficking routes on roads and at airports. This resulted in 212 arrests and the identification of a further 89 trafficking suspects.

The action days aimed to combat human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation, forced criminality and forced begging. Europol coordinated the five action days from its 24-hour operational center, which provided the participant countries with information crosschecking, secure communication channels, and a range of analytical capabilities throughout the operation. The action days took place under the umbrella of the EMPACT security mechanism/framework.

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Altogether, 147,668 persons and 91,856 vehicles checked. In addition to the 212 arrests, 37 further investigations were initiated. There were also seizures of goods such as false driver’s licenses, weapons, and hard drugs.

The action days sought to identify and arrest human trafficking suspects as they transited across Europe, as well as to identify and protect trafficking victims and prevent associated document fraud. Europol coordinated national police, passenger information units, border guards and national agencies that counter human trafficking. Together they created a tight net around trafficking routes, with national police and border agents performing roadside checks, while the passenger information units checked airline passengers.

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This led to law enforcement identifying 593 adults and 57 minors as potential human trafficking victims, which included nationals from countries in four continents. Officers stations at EU airports were able to identify a large number of victims as vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation. Those identified were either successfully referred to the U.K.’s National Referral Mechanism, or returned to their home countries with welfare checks or police assistance put in place upon their return.

Law enforcement also targeted a wide range of possible locations for human traffickers, such as bars, brothels, nightclubs, nail bars, massage studios, and strip clubs. This diverse range of target areas was the result of intelligence showing that traffickers were deploying multiple methods for recruiting their victims, such as the ‘lover boy’ method and threats of violence against victims’ relatives.

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