Law enforcement authorities jointly targeted firearms trafficking, drugs trafficking, migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings during coordinated action days between October 26 and 29. The actions, which included intensified checks on the European Union’s external borders, were coordinated by Spain and Europol, involved 28 countries, and were supported by Eurojust, Frontex, INTERPOL, the Southeast European Law Enforcement Centre and other international organizations.
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.
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 offenses 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.
As well as the arrests, weapons and narcotics seizures were made including 106 firearms, one anti-personnel mine, one air defense system, 15 grenades, and two anti-tank missiles.
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. Meanwhile, the Balkan route is a key entry point for heroin traffickers, while cannabis and cocaine traffickers also use this transition point.