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144 people smugglers arrested in Frontex-led operation

2021-09-29

On 3-13 September, Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, led an international operation against serious and organised cross-border crime in Central and South Eastern Europe together with Austrian authorities.

The operation, known as EMPACT Joint Action Day (JAD) Danube, focused on combatting the smuggling of migrants, fighting trafficking in human beings and document fraud.

A coordination centre was set up in Vienna to support the exchange of information among the participants and to lead investigations into people smuggling and trafficking in human beings as a result of the operation.

On the ground, Frontex standing corps officers, along with customs, border guards and police officers from the participating countries were conducting border checks that brought impressive results.

In just over a week, the operation led to:

  • Arrest of 144 suspected people smugglers
  • Detection of 6656 irregular migrants
  • Detection of 76 fraudulent documents
  • Detection of 13 stolen cars


Trafficking in human beings is one of the most profitable forms of organised crime, generating billions of euros for criminal networks. Frontex plays an active role in combatting this crime through such activities as Joint Action Days but also through training border guards across Europe. The agency runs a number of operations at international airports, too, aimed at detecting and safeguarding victims of trafficking, especially children. Together with specialists in Trafficking in Human Beings (THB) prevention across Europe, Frontex created a manual for border guards and airport staff to help spot children who may be victims of trafficking.

The operation was part of European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats (EMPACT), a four-year plan for the fight against serious and organised crime. It brings together police and law enforcement authorities of EU Member States, European agencies and international organisations to jointly strengthen Europe’s borders and internal security.

Participants included Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Romania, Greece, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania. Europol and Interpol also supported the operation

The operation was coordinated under the umbrella of the European Multidisciplinary Platform against Criminal Threats (EMPACT) as part of the EU Policy Cycle, a four-year plan for the fight against serious and organised crime. It brings together police and law enforcement authorities of EU Member States, European agencies and international organisations to jointly strengthen Europe’s borders and internal security. The results and intelligence gathered will help in ongoing and future investigations.

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