107 suspects detained and over 900 potential victims identified in pan-European hit against sexual exploitation
Europol supported a Europe-wide action week carried out by law enforcement agencies from a total of 22 Member States and Third Parties aimed at organised crime groups (OCG) trafficking vulnerable individuals for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Between 26 June and 2 July, two crime areas – trafficking in human beings (THB) and facilitated illegal immigration (FII) – were targeted with actions undertaken to safeguard victims and identify those responsible for their trafficking and sexual exploitation.
Throughout the operation, coordinated by Europol and under the lead of Austria, more than 126 927 individuals were checked, alongside 6 363 vehicles and 4 245 locations – known to facilitate the exploitation (red-light district areas, brothels, private flats, massage parlours, airports but also land and sea border crossing points, etc.). Special attention was given to the online environment, used as a means to advertise victims of sexual exploitation, the activities undertaken lead to the identification and safeguarding of potential victims of trafficking.
As a result of these wide-ranging actions, 107 suspects were detained or arrested for offences including trafficking in human beings and illegal immigration. 910 potential victims of trafficking were identified.
Information collected during the operation has led to the launch of 25 new inquiries and to intelligence developments of others, in order to identify additional suspects and victims connected to human trafficking cases across the EU.
Complementing the operational activities, campaigns and efforts to raise awareness on the topic of human trafficking for sexual exploitation were carried out, principally at the main exit/entry airports but also through community engagements.
The exchanges of specialist police officers between countries of origin and destination, organised by Europol, have significantly contributed to the success of the actions linked to trafficking in human beings for sexual exploitation.
Law enforcement officers in the field were supported 24/7 from an operational coordination centre located at Europol’s headquarters in The Hague. Here, Europol officers and liaison officers, offered fast information exchange using Europol’s secure channels, and real time cross-checking and analysis of intelligence gathered.
The nationality of the victims of human trafficking identified, and the suspects arrested during the span of the action week, confirm, at present, the prevalence of trafficking networks originating from Nigeria, South America and Eastern-Europe as being the most active in the EU.