Joint action by European police against traffickers using the Balkan route

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Europol revealed that law enforcement authorities jointly targeted firearms trafficking, drugs trafficking, migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings during coordinated EMPACT Joint Action Days between 26 and 29 October.

The actions, which included intensified checks on the EU’s external borders, were coordinated by Spain and Europol

The operational activities involving 28 countries across Europe were also supported by Eurojust, Frontex, INTERPOL, SELEC and other international organisations. The EMPACT Joint Action Days were planned based on an intelligence-led approach, which involved the cooperation of a wide range of law enforcement authorities including police, customs, immigration agencies and border control agencies. 

382 arrests and 130 new investigations

The operational activities mainly took place in the Balkans and Southeast Europe. Other countries from across Europe contributed criminal intelligence and conducted operational actions at the national level. Almost 16 000 officers were involved in the actions on the ground. Simultaneously, between 24 and 29 October, national authorities coordinated special activities that targeted human trafficking networks involved in sexual exploitation, forced begging and forced criminality. The results of these actions will be released in a second communication.  

In total, the activities led to 382 arrests of suspects, the majority of whom were alleged to be involved in drug trafficking, facilitation of illegal immigration, document fraud and the trafficking of firearms. Officers on the ground detected a number of offences related to the facilitation of illegal immigration and related legal violations such as document fraud. The arrests and evidence retrieved has allowed law enforcement authorities to initiate 130 new investigations. 

Overall results: 

  • 74 924 people checked
  • 998 locations searched
  • 32 665 vehicles inspected
  • 2 004 packages/parcels checked
  • 382 arrests: 159 related to migrant smuggling, 112 related to drug trafficking, 38 related to firearms trafficking, 2 related to trafficking and human beings 71 related to other crimes. 
  • 2 476 illegal entries detected
  • Seizures include:
    • 106 firearms: 43 rifles, 42 pistols, 6 air guns, 1 anti-personnel mine, 1 air defense system, 15 grenades, 2 machines for assembling, 2 antitank missiles and  12 250 pieces of ammunition
    • Drugs: 304 kg of heroin, 147 kilograms of cannabis, 5 402 plants of marijuana and 1.3 kg of cocaine
  • 130 new investigations initiated 
  • Participating countries – EU Member States: Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden. 
    Non-EU Countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Switzerland, Türkiye, Ukraine and United Kingdom. 

The Balkan route is notorious for its use in a number of crime areas, including migrant smuggling and the trafficking of firearms and drugs into the EU. Multinational criminal groups source the weapons predominantly from countries in the Western Balkans, where human resources with expertise in firearms are widely available. The firearms are then trafficked to the EU – mainly to Belgium, France, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands. On the other hand, the Balkan route is a key entry point for heroin traffickers, while cannabis and cocaine traffickers also use this transition point. 

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