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. Operation Global Chain, led by Austria and co-led by Romania, was coordinated by Europol, Frontex, and INTERPOL. This joint operation involved a wide range of law enforcement authorities, including police, immigration and border control agencies, transport police, social services, and child protection services.

The main objectives of Operation Global Chain were to detect and disrupt organized crime groups involved in human trafficking, particularly child trafficking, sexual exploitation, forced criminality and forced begging. The joint efforts aimed to identify, protect, and refer victims and potential victims of human trafficking for assistance. Specific actions targeted the disruption of criminal networks exploiting victims from various regions, such as South America, Asia, Africa, the Western Balkans, and Ukraine.

As a result of sustained enforcement actions, 212 arrests were made, and authorities identified 1,426 potential victims of human trafficking. Additionally, 244 new investigations were initiated. Law enforcement agencies were present at border crossings and major transport hubs to identify potential victims and suspects. Each country tailored its operational activities to combat the specific types of trafficking prevalent in their respective regions. Throughout the operation, 8,644 flights were monitored, and 3,984 border checkpoints were actively observed. The joint efforts of Europol, Frontex, and INTERPOL in coordinating this operation were instrumental in the fight against human traffickers active worldwide.

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During the joint operational actions, approximately 130,000 officers worldwide checked 1.6 million people, inspected 25,400 locations, examined 153,300 vehicles, and reviewed 72,850 documents. The planning of these operational activities took place during a meeting hosted by Frontex and coordinated from the coordination center hosted by INTERPOL. Europol facilitated the exchange of information and provided 24/7 operational analytical support throughout the week-long operation.

Several notable highlights emerged from the operation:

  • Investigators in Sweden identified five underage boys in a well-known begging area, accompanied by a 19-year-old male who acted as their boss, overseeing their begging activities.
  • In Serbia, six suspects were arrested for sexually exploiting ten females, and one suspect was apprehended for exploiting another female through forced begging and forced criminality.
  • Romanian authorities conducted 19 house searches, leading to the arrest of four individuals suspected of labor exploitation involving at least eight 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 seven suspects were taken into custody.

Operation Global Chain demonstrated the power of international collaboration and the joint efforts of law enforcement agencies to combat human trafficking. By identifying and protecting potential victims, disrupting criminal networks, and initiating investigations, this operation has made significant strides in the fight against this heinous crime. The commitment shown by participating countries sends a strong message that human trafficking will not be tolerated, and efforts will continue to ensure the safety and well-being of those vulnerable to exploitation.