• Eyal Pinko

INTERPOL: 121 arrests in operation against migrant smuggling and human trafficking

An INTERPOL-coordinated operation targeting migrant smuggling and human trafficking resulted in 121 arrests and 193 fresh investigations in 25 countries.

Authorities carried out enforcement activities against organized crime groups suspected of enabling the cross-border movement of Asian men, women, and children for exploitation and/or profit during Operation Storm Makers (March 21–25, 2022).

Authorities rescued 80 victims of human trafficking and identified 3,400 irregular migrants in total.

In Hanoi, Vietnam, and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, operational coordination units were established to assist in assessing intelligence and the facilitation of enforcement measures between participating countries.

At airports across the United Arab Emirates (UAE), smart electronic gates linked to INTERPOL databases were activated to speed up passport inspections and detect fraudulent documents.

INTERPOL's databases were checked 15 million times at air, land, and sea borders around the world, resulting in 'hits' or alerts for false travel papers as well as INTERPOL Notices against individuals wanted on various offenses, including murder and fraud.

Police in Turkey arrested four persons and busted an alleged international organ trafficking conspiracy. The Indian-based criminal network is suspected of preying on vulnerable Indonesian citizens and organizing kidney transplants in Turkey. The accused staged wedding images and falsified paperwork to establish false family links between recipients and contributors. As a result, the organ donor would get USD 15,000, with the remaining split among the network members, with each kidney reaching USD 37,000 on the illegal market.

Police from Malaysia and Cambodia collaborated on a case involving 15 men and one woman who were enticed to Cambodia with the promise of a lucrative contact center job. They were imprisoned and made to work 14-hour days as con artists when they arrived. Authorities in both nations think the criminal ring has additional victims, and INTERPOL's Human Trafficking and Smuggling of Migrants unit assists in the investigation.

Other operational highlights include:

In the Philippines, 32 victims of human trafficking were rescued, and eight perpetrators were detained on charges of human trafficking, child exploitation, and child abuse.

Authorities in Greece stopped a car transporting five irregular migrants from Afghanistan and Syria, who had each paid a smuggler in Turkey EUR 4,000 for transportation to Thessaloniki.

Vietnamese refugees were stopped at the Hungary-Romania border on their journey to Germany. Their traffickers, who were also Vietnamese, had used social media to plan every detail of their illicit expedition.

A 17-year-old girl was rescued from sexual exploitation in the United Arab Emirates. A family member had coerced the child into prostitution when she was brought to the UAE from Pakistan at the age of 13.

Authorities in the Maldives discovered a probable brothel disguised as a salon and spa, where they believe trafficked Thai women were forced into prostitution. Authorities worked with the ladies to guarantee their safe return to Thailand and investigate the organized crime gang behind their recruitment and abuse through the INTERPOL National Central Bureau in Bangkok.

"In only one week, our operation generated approximately 200 new investigations, demonstrating the tremendous extent of these crimes," stated INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock. It is a big obligation for law enforcement, especially when the victims are being abused or are in life-threatening situations. INTERPOL will continue to assist authorities in closing the gaps and bringing the perpetrators of these heinous crimes to justice."

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