SPAIN has taken part in a Europe-wide, UK led operation against trafficking of children for sexual exploitation, forced begging and labour exploitation.
The operation involved law enforcement authorities from 16 EU member states, Iceland and Switzerland as well as Europol.
Between June 17 and 23, more than 127, 000 individuals, 63,800 vehicles and 1,100 locations were checked. Law enforcement authorities searched private properties, commercial establishments, hotels, buses and train stations, ferry ports, airports and border crossings. Prevention campaigns in schools to inform minors of the risks of human trafficking were also part of the operational activities.
Over the course of the week 19 suspects were arrested in the UK for offences relating to sexual exploitation, including keeping a brothel and controlling prostitution for gain, and a further four for human trafficking.
Another 21 arrests were made for other offences including possessing indecent images and immigration offences.
Of the 35 potential victims identified and safeguarded 18 were minors, and were most often subject to labour and criminal exploitation, as well as sexual exploitation and domestic servitude.
The overall results across Europe include 34 arrests for trafficking of human beings and 36 arrests for other offences such as robbery, dissemination of child sexual exploitation material and facilitation of illegal immigration.
During the action days, 206 potential victims were identified, 53 of whom were confirmed to be minors. These activities enabled the initiation of 31 new cases of human trafficking across the different participating countries.
During the operation, experts in trafficking of human beings from law enforcement agencies, child protection officers, social workers, representatives of municipalities and non-governmental organisations joined efforts to identify potential victims and investigate cases of child trafficking.
The following countries participated to the Joint Action Days: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
Head of the UK’s National Crime Agency’s Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Unit, Adam Thompson, said: “This co-ordinated week of activity aimed to disrupt and build intelligence on the criminal networks involved in modern slavery and human trafficking.
“In the UK this led to dozens of potential victims being safeguarded. These are people who are often vulnerable and may not recognise themselves as victims until it is too late.
“Working with our partners across law enforcement here and abroad we are determined to do all we can to fight modern slavery and tackle the criminal groups involved. But we can’t do that on our own, and information from the public is vital to us.”