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382 arrests during joint actions against traffickers using the Balkan route

In the context of EMPACT, during the entire year CSC WB Project supported the beneficiaries in their proactive participation to JAD (Joint Action Days) SEE Operational Action 08.1 within OAP Firearms 2022.

Law enforcement authorities (18 EU Member States and 10 non-EU countries) jointly targeted firearms trafficking, drugs trafficking, migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings during coordinated Joint Action Days between the 26th and 29th October. The actions, which included intensified checks on the EU’s external borders, were coordinated by Spain and Europol and funded by the Project CSCWB.

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 and in total, the activities led to 382 arrests of suspects, the majority of which involved in drug trafficking, facilitation of illegal immigration, document fraud and the trafficking of firearms. The arrests and evidence retrieved has allowed law enforcement authorities to initiate 130 new investigations.

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. Drug trafficking and the illegal trade in weapons are closely connected, especially in connection to cocaine trafficking networks. Coordinated activities of national authorities in the Western Balkans contribute to detecting this trafficking and, during the Joint Action Days, led to the interception of both drugs and firearms.

During the previous months, during the intelligence phase, WBs were supported in the mapping of cross border investigations, with particular focus on Firearms. Meanwhile, Europol supported the coordination of the Joint Action Days and facilitated the exchange of information between the participating countries, the Project purchased IT devices used for the set up of the Command Operational Center, hosted by Montenegro Police, in which also an Europol analyst was deployed.

During the action week, Europol also deployed an expert to Bosnia and Herzegovina to facilitate the real-time exchange of communication between the participating authorities.

The CSCWB Project will continue to provide support to WBs in the follow up phase.

* An article on this matter was also published by Europol. Article to be found on this link.