Earlier this month, a joint action day, coordinated by the Netherlands, targeted criminal networks using websites and social media platforms to recruit victims for sexual exploitation. This first online, EU-wide hackathon against trafficking in human beings, supported by Europol and Eurojust, involved law enforcement authorities from 20 countries.
The European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats (EMPACT) action day brought together 85 experts from different EU law enforcement authorities at the Dutch Police Academy in Apeldoorn. They focused on combating criminal networks that use social media, the surface web and the dark web to conduct human trafficking. Compared to other crime areas, such as drug trafficking or trafficking of weapons, it is more challenging to identify the indicators of trafficking in human beings in an online environment. This joint action day gathered criminal intelligence to determine these indicators as part of the fight against criminal networks using the online environment to exploit the most vulnerable people. In particular, the investigators targeted human traffickers attempting to lure Ukrainian refugees.
The internet and human trafficking are interlinked. Many social media platforms, dating apps and private groups online are being ‘hijacked’ by individuals involved in human trafficking for sexual or labour exploitation. These individuals are trying to mislead law enforcement and avoid detection. The joint efforts of law enforcement in the monitoring of platforms which may offer sexual services, recruitment, and the harbouring or transportation of victims increases the intelligence picture. The international cooperation, exchange of knowledge, expertise and technology, served the better mapping out of this criminal landscape and served new investigations.
Key figures from the joint operation:
The following countries participated in the operation: Austria, Albania, Belgium, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Netherlands, Portugal, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom and Ukraine.
Europol supported the coordination of the operational activities, facilitated the exchange of information and provided analytical support. On the action day, Europol deployed two experts to the coordination center to facilitate the information exchange in real time and crosscheck operational information against Europol’s databases. This provided further investigative leads to the participating officers from involved national law enforcement authorities.Homeland Security Today