Between 8 and 15 May 2023, a global action targeting human trafficking for sexual exploitation, forced begging and forced criminality took place in 44 countries (25 EU Member States and 19 non-EU countries*). Operation Global Chain, which included the EMPACT Joint Action Days against human trafficking, was led by Austria, co-led by Romaniaand coordinated by Europol, Frontex and INTERPOL. The joint actions involved a wide range of law enforcement authorities including police, immigration and border control agencies, transport police, social services and child protection services.
212 arrests and 138 suspected traffickers identified in a joint effort against human trafficking
The joint activities focused on detecting and disrupting organised crime groups involved in trafficking in human beings, in particular child trafficking, sexual exploitation, forced criminality and forced begging. The main objectives of Operation Global Chain were to identify, protect and refer victims and potential victims of human trafficking for assistance. Specific actions targeted the disruption of criminal networks potentially exploiting victims originating from South America, Asia, Africa, the Western Balkans and Ukraine. The joint and coordinated actions of different authorities was therefore crucial for the development of the operational activities.
Sustained enforcement actions on the ground led to 212 arrests and the identification of 1 426 potential victims, while 244 new investigations were initiated. Authorities were present at border crossings and main transport hubs to identify potential victims and suspects, with countries adapting their operational activities to the types of trafficking prevalent in their regions. In total, 8 644 flights were monitored, while 3 984 border checkpoints were actively monitored. Europol, Frontex and INTERPOL coordinated the operation in a unique effort to join forces against human traffickers active across the globe.
During these joint operational actions, approximately 130 000 officers worldwide checked:
- 1.6 million people
- 25 400 locations
- 153 300 vehicles
- 72 850 documents
The operational activities were planned during a meeting hosted by Frontex and coordinated from the coordination centre hosted by INTERPOL. Europol facilitated the exchange of information and provided 24/7 operational analytical support during the week of action.
- Investigators in Sweden identified 5 underage boys in a well-known begging area, accompanied by a 19-year-old male. In their statements, the boys indicated that the adult was acting as their boss, overseeing their begging activities.
- In Serbia, 6 suspects were arrested for sexually exploiting 10 female, and 1 suspect for exploiting 1 female in the form of forced begging and forced criminality.
- Romanian authorities conducted 19 house searches and arrested 4 people suspected of labour exploitation of at least 8 victims.
- In North Macedonia, 11 suspects were arrested for the sexual exploitation of minors and trafficking in human beings.
- In Colombia, 27 victims of sexual exploitation were identified and 7 suspects were arrested.
Children: the most vulnerable victims of an underreported crime
Human traffickers target the most vulnerable groups, including children. Minors are trafficked for sexual and labour exploitation. Criminals force children to beg or commit a variety of crimes, such as smuggling illegal goods and petty crime. Child trafficking remains largely underreported. Within the EU, children are mostly trafficked by their relatives. These criminal organisations, connected through large clan networks, operate in several countries and move the children across borders. Minors from non-EU countries can become victims of traffickers collaborating with the adults who accompany the children while pretending to be their relatives or legal guardians.