Global Anti-Trafficking Operation: 212 Arrested, 1,426 Victims Identified

Published: 05 June 2023

Frontex - man hidden in lorry 2Human figure visible on a lorry scan. (Photo: INTERPOL, License)

By Zdravko Ljubas

Police in 44 countries arrested 212 suspects and identified 1,426 potential victims of sexual exploitation, forced begging, and forced crime during a global anti-human trafficking operation, an Interpol statement announced on Thursday.

The International Criminal Police Organization, Europol, and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) coordinated the operation, named Global Chain, which took place from May 8 to 15 and aimed to detect and disrupt organized crime groups involved in the exploitation of victims from South America, Asia, Africa, the Western Balkans, and Ukraine.

The goal was not only to identify victims but also to protect and refer them, confirmed or potential, to support services.

Interpol personnel were present at approximately 4,000 border crossings in 25 EU and 19 non-EU countries. Around 130,000 police officers worldwide examined 1.6 million individuals, 153,300 vehicles, 72,850 documents, 25,400 locations, and 8,644 flights over the eight days of the operation. As a result, 244 additional investigations were initiated, and 138 suspected traffickers were identified.

Law enforcement agencies emphasized that human traffickers target the most vulnerable groups, particularly children. Europol stressed that child trafficking remains largely underreported and warned that minors are trafficked for sexual and labor exploitation. Criminals often force children into begging or committing various crimes, such as smuggling illegal goods or engaging in petty crime.

The EU police agency also highlighted the concerning fact that children are typically trafficked by their own families within the EU.

"Enforcement operations such as Global Chain allow us to establish the vital links required to confront trafficking networks head-on and show that we stand united against the exploitation of vulnerable communities," said Stephen Kavanagh, Interpol's Executive Director of Police Services.

Operational highlights supported these claims.

In Sweden, investigators identified five underage boys in a well-known begging area accompanied by a 19-year-old man who acted as their boss and oversaw their begging activities.

In North Macedonia, 11 individuals were arrested on suspicion of sexual exploitation of children and human trafficking, while six suspects were apprehended in neighboring Serbia for sexually exploiting 10 female victims.

Authorities in Romania detained four individuals suspected of labor exploitation involving at least eight victims. In Colombia, authorities arrested seven suspects and identified 27 victims of sexual exploitation, as reported by Interpol.

Although Operation Global Chain primarily focused on human trafficking and related crimes, it also aided in the detection of other criminals. Bulgarian authorities arrested a suspected terrorist fighter who had been the subject of an Interpol Red Notice since 2015 and was traveling on a forged passport.