During an EU wide law enforcement operation against child trafficking from 9 to 13 October 2017, at least 34 minors and 1072 adults were found in vulnerable or potentially exploitative situations. 16 suspects of trafficking in human beings were arrested and several links to migrant smuggling, document forgery and drugs trafficking were identified. A simultaneous operation against the facilitation of illegal migration in and around reception centres saw the additional arrests of 74 suspects, of which 4 for migrant smuggling.
The week-long joint action against child trafficking was aimed at enhancing the intelligence picture on the phenomenon, safeguarding children and disrupting organised crime groups’s activities. Under Europol’s coordination and supported by Frontex and INTERPOL, 19 European countries came together and checked more than 240.000 persons for indications of human trafficking. The actions focused mainly on hotspots for sexual exploitation, forced begging and forced criminality, reception centres, border crossing points etc.
34 minors were detected in situations which could potentially involve child trafficking. For example, one child was detected arriving at a major international airport using a look-a-like passport and accompanied by an unrelated adult who posed as the father. Other examples include an underage migrant in a reception centre who is suspected to have been sexually exploited during the migratory path to Europe and possibly also in Europe; children found begging in the streets of European cities and a mother and a son discovered under exploitation for domestic servitude.
Besides that, 1072 adult potential victims and 115 suspects were identified, 16 of them were arrested. Small amounts of drugs, forged documents and mobile devices were seized. In cooperation with Europol, national authorities will now further investigate these cases.
Simultaneously, law enforcement agencies from 17 Member States and 5 Third countries joined an intelligence-led exercise aimed at uncovering the facilitation of illegal immigration and other criminal activities in and around reception and asylum centres. The goal was enhancing thus, the intelligence picture by identifying key networks and modi operandi of criminal groups, disrupting when possible, their activities in/around those hubs. Migrants are often stranded there for a long time and are more subject to fall victim to criminals groups. During this action week, more than 210.000 persons were checked and 74 persons were arrested for several criminal activities, of which 4 for suspicion of migrant smuggling. For example, a smuggler was caught after his involvement in the illegal transport of migrants from Greece to other EU countries. Another facilitator was arrested on the suspicion of providing EU documents to migrants. Several investigations have been initiated and will be continued in the next few weeks and months.
Europol supported all involved law enforcement authorities by setting up an operational coordination centre at its headquarters and providing on the spot support to national agencies. Both operations are part of Operation Dragon, which is the fourth series of joint action days covered by the 2014 – 2017 EU Policy Cycle targeting serious international and organised crime. Operation Dragon focuses on key crime hot spots and key criminal infrastructures in the EU and beyond. Full results on this operation will be announced in the coming weeks.