In mid-October 2017, a far-reaching police operation was developed at European Union level, which facilitated the rescue of 34 minors and 1,072 adults who were in a vulnerable situation or potential victims of exploitation. In the same operation 16 people suspected of people trafficking were arrested and a range of links were identified for the smuggling of migrants, the falsification of documents and drug trafficking. A simultaneous operation against the promotion of irregular migration to reception centres allowed the added detention of 74 suspects, of whom 4 were for migrant trafficking.
The week-long joint action against the trafficking of children aimed to gain an insight into the phenomenon, safeguard the children and interrupt the activities of organised groups of criminals. Under the coordination of Europol and with the support of Frontex and Interpol, 19 European countries gathered together and analysed the movements of over 240,000 people, victims of people trafficking. The actions were mainly focused on points of interest for sexual exploitation, forced begging and forced crime, the reception centres, the main points for crossing borders, etc.
In this operation 34 minors were detected in situations that could potentially involve the trafficking and exploitation of minors. For example, there was the case of a boy who arrived at an important International airport with a fake passport, accompanied by an adult who had no relationship with him, pretending to be his father. Other examples include a migrant who was a minor in a reception centre who, they suspect, had been exploited sexually while he was migrating towards Europe.
Furthermore, 1,072 potential adult victims and 115 suspects were detected, 16 of these being arrested. Small quantities of medication, fake documents and mobile devices were confiscated. In cooperation with Europol, the state authorities are carrying out an in-depth investigation into these cases.
Simultaneously, the police authorities of 17 member states and 5 third countries united in an exercise led by intelligence investigations to discover the different case types of irregular immigration and other criminal activities in reception and asylum centres. The objective was to improve the intelligence framework, identifying key networks and modus operandi of criminal groups, interrupting, whenever possible, their activities in and around these centres.
Migrants tend to spend a lot of time in reception centres and are prone to become victims of criminal groups. During these investigations the movements of over 210,000 migrants were checked and 74 persons were arrested for a range of criminal activities, 4 of whom were suspected of smuggling migrants. For example, a smuggler was captured after participating in the illegal transportation of migrants from Greece to other EU countries. Another facilitator was detained on suspicion of providing EU documents to immigrants.
Europol supported all the competent authorities responsible for the application of the law by establishing an operative coordination centre in its headquarters and providing occasional support for state agencies. The so-called Operation Dragon is the fourth series of the Cycle of Policies of the EU for 2014-2017, which addresses serious International organised crime. Operation Dragon focuses on particular aspects of organised crime and key criminal infrastructures in the EU and beyond.