By Matthew Roscoe • 06 December 2022 • 15:59
HUGE number of potential human trafficking victims identified across Europe. Image: europol.europa.eu/Official
Between 24 and 30 October, law enforcement authorities across Europe jointly targeted firearms trafficking, drugs trafficking, migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings during coordinated EMPACT Joint Action Days (JAD). Austria and Spain coordinated the two streams of activities, which included intensified checks on the EU’s external borders and special operations. Europol coordinated the exchange of operational information between the involved parties.
In total, 34 countries across Europe, supported by EU agencies and international organisations*, took part in these large-scale coordinated actions. The EMPACT Joint Action Days were planned based on an intelligence-led approach in which police, customs, immigration agencies and border control agencies joined forces.
Checks at borders and locations vulnerable to exploitation
In the framework of the EMPACT Joint Action Days, national authorities targeted human trafficking for sexual exploitation, forced begging and forced criminality. Officers made special checks at borders, bus and train stations, and locations vulnerable to exploitation such as brothels, massage parlours, shelters for families, shelters for victims of domestic violence and hospitals. National authorities also performed preventive actions. For example, Romanian authorities conducted awareness-raising and preventive activities to identify potential victims of human trafficking on their way to destination countries. These activities focused on checks and controls of persons and vehicles, controls in street prostitution areas, and awareness-raising of the threat of human trafficking and exploitation.
National authorities developed a number of investigations linked to the action days. One example is the identification of an individual suspected of child sexual exploitation in Croatia. The suspect was luring victims, mainly minors, via social networks. The investigative activities led to the identification of 16 victims, 14 of which were minors.
UK authorities also conducted focused activities targeting child sexual exploitation. Police forces visited children vulnerable to exploitation and disseminated training materials to hotels and local authorities to help identify children in need of help. During the JAD, approximately 20 % of potential victims identified in the United Kingdom were minors.
Results of the actions targeting human trafficking
Global results of the EMPACT Joint Action Days conducted in October 2022
Police, gendarmerie, border guards, customs authorities and national units involved in combating organised crime across Europe cooperated in these EMPACT Joint Action Days. The intelligence-led approach, operational coordination across borders and joint work of all authorities involved contributed to increased interceptions. The information exchange led to the opening of 335 new cases against criminal networks involved in firearms trafficking, drugs trafficking, migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings. Europol coordinated the exchange of operational information during the EMPACT Joint Action Days and supported the operational coordination. Europol also deployed experts on the ground to provide real-time analytical support to field operatives.
Europol’s officers deployed to Moldova earlier this year, as part of Europol’s support to bordering countries in the context of the war of aggression against Ukraine, also contributed to the action days.
Overall participants in all Joint Action Days
EU Member States: Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden.
Non-EU countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Switzerland, Türkiye, Ukraine and United Kingdom.
EU Agencies: Europol, Eurojust, Frontex
International and institutional partners: EUBAM, IPA/2019 (Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance) countering serious and organised crime in the Western Balkans, INTERPOL, PCC SEE (Police Cooperation Convention For Southeast Europe Secretariat), SEESAC (South Eastern and Eastern Europe Clearinghouse for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons) and SELEC (Southeast European Law Enforcement Center).
* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.
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Originally from the UK, Matthew is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at [email protected]
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