In a bid to target Nigerian criminal networks operating across Europe for the purpose of sexual exploitation, law enforcement authorities in sixteen European countries carried out the third pan-European operation to combat the trafficking of human beings from West Africa on April 28.
According to provisional figures, more than 1000 persons – mainly women from West African countries – were checked, and over 400 potential victims of trafficking – mostly women from Nigeria – were identified. At the same time more than 30 persons were found to have links to criminal structures via cross-checks at the Europol headquarters. As a result of the day of action, new investigations have been launched in several participating countries with Europol’s support.
As part of the operation, places of prostitution were checked in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Ireland, Czech Republic, Norway, and Switzerland, while intensive checks were also conducted at major international airports in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Portugal as locations assessed to be potential nexus-points or destination ports for victims of trafficking originating from Western Africa, and therefore addressing the threat from direct and transit hubs.
Additional to these checks in Europe active support was given by the Joint Border Task Force in Nigeria who conducted additional checks at Lagos Airport. The objective of all these activities was to identify people trafficked from Western Africa, and to increase the intelligence picture on the human traffickers involved.
The results submitted by the countries involved are being analysed by Europol to help identify key figures in international human trafficking networks in Europe and to establish crime patterns as well as possible criminal organisational structures.