Osnabrück was a major focus of the police raids that took place in Germany | Photo: Festim Beqiri/Tv7News/dpa/picture-alliance
Osnabrück was a major focus of the police raids that took place in Germany | Photo: Festim Beqiri/Tv7News/dpa/picture-alliance

Europol says nearly 130 human trafficking suspects have been arrested following a joint operation aimed at criminal networks allegedly planning to smuggle migrants to Britain on small boats.

Europe's agency for law enforcement, Europol, on Tuesday reported the arrests of around 130 suspects during a massive operation targeting human trafficking.

Police from 22 countries were involved in the joint operation which also identified 60 new suspects, Europol said in a statement.

The agency said that more than 22,480 law enforcement officers were involved in what it called "action days," during which checks were carried out at sea, land and air borders, including focus on widely used routes into Europe. During the days of the operation, around 13,500 locations and nearly a million people were checked. 

German police part of EU-wide operaion

German police were among the law enforcement agencies involved and launched a "large-scale operation" early on Tuesday morning in the "fight against people smuggling," according to a police statement.

Raids carried out by hundreds of officers took place across several German states, including Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia, Bremen and Baden-Württemberg. 

Police in Osnabrück said the searches focused in and around the northwestern city, as well as Bremen, also in the north, and Stuttgart, capital of the state of Baden-Württemberg, in southwestern Germany.

Police in Britain, Belgium, France and the Netherlands were also involved, according to the statement.

A spokeswoman for Osnabrück's police told DW that the operation concerns international smuggling efforts, and that it was "not wrong" to suggest that it was in connection with people smuggling from Europe across the English Channel, as reported earlier in local media.

Osnabrück police said the operation had been conducted in coordination with Europol and Eurojust — the European Agency for Criminal Justice.

English Channel notorious route for people-smuggling

In November last year, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin sought help from the United Kingdom, Belgium and Germany in "combating human traffickers."

His comments came after a boat capsized in the English Channel, killing 27 people trying to reach Britain.

Five suspected smugglers were arrested as a result, with one of them having a car registered in Germany. Darmanin went on to say, with France facing pressure on the issue from Britain at the time, that many of the smuggling activities were in fact rooted in France's western European neighbors.

Author: John Silk

First published: July 5, 2022

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