Between 8 and 12 November 2021, Europol lent its support to a series of large-scale international action days against human trafficking. The action days were coordinated by Europol and Frontex and involved 29 different countries, led by Austria and Romania.
More than 14,000 police officers took part in the action days, surveilling human trafficking routes on roads and at airports. Some 212 arrests were made and a further 89 people suspected of human trafficking were identified.
The aim of the action days was to combat the trafficking of human beings for the purposes of sexual exploitation, forced criminality and forced begging. Europol coordinated the five action days from its 24-hour operations centre, which provided the participating countries with cross-checking of information, secure communication channels and a range of analytical capabilities throughout the operation. The action days took place under the aegis of the EMPACT security framework.
Results of the action days from 8 to 12 November:
• 212 arrests for offences such as human trafficking, money laundering, pimping and fraud.
• 147,668 people identified and 91,856 vehicles checked.
• 327 additional investigations launched.
The action days were designed to identify and arrest human trafficking suspects while they were travelling in Europe, and to identify and protect the victims of trafficking and prevent associated document fraud.
Europol coordinated the work of the national police forces, passenger information units, border guards and national agencies that combat human trafficking. A net was put in place around the travel routes, with national police and border agents performing roadside checks while the passenger information units checked airline passengers.
As a result, law enforcement agencies identified 593 adults and 57 minors – drawn from countries in four different continents – as potential victims of human trafficking. Police stations at EU airports were able to identify a large number of victims as being susceptible to trafficking and exploitation. The individuals identified were successfully referred to the United Kingdom’s National Referral Mechanism or returned to their countries of origin, and given police assistance or checks upon their return.
There were also seizures of goods, such as fake driving licences, weapons and drugs. The information gathered during these action days has resulted in the opening of 327 new cases, as well as the potential identification of new human trafficking suspects. This enhanced cooperation between EU agencies, national law enforcement and organisations such as the passenger information units will pave the way for similar investigations into these serious criminal activities in the future.
The law enforcement agencies also targeted a wide range of potential locations for human trafficking, such as bars, brothels, nightclubs, massage parlours, nail bars and strip clubs. This diverse selection of targets was the result of investigations showing that traffickers were using a variety of methods to recruit their victims and threatening violence against the victims’ relatives.