Police in Sweden have arrested seven members of a gang on suspicion of people smuggling offences, the international prosecutor’s office in Stockholm has said.
Prosecutor Katarina Folestad said the gang, which consisted of both men and women aged between 20 and 50, had been active since 2012, and was also involved in what officials described as an “aggravated bookkeeping crime”.
The arrests took place on Wednesday in the Norrkoping area of central Sweden during a joint operation conducted by the Swedish Economic Crime Authority and the local prosecutor’s office.
Separately, police in Bosnia yesterday announced they had broken up a major people trafficking ring operating in several European countries. Officers in Austria, Bosnia, Germany and Serbia detained more than a dozen people in a joint operation designed is disrupt a gang that smuggled women into Western Europe and forced them to work as prostitutes.
Speaking to reporters in Sarajevo, Vahidin Šahinpašić, head of Organised Crime Prevention at Bosnia’s State Investigation and Protection Agency, said: “We believe that we have broken a very important criminal ring.”
Eight members of the group were detained in Bosnia on suspicion of human trafficking and prostitution, while another three were held in Serbia. After telling women from Serbia and Bosnia they could secure them work in Wester European countries such as Germany, the gang members would confiscate their victims’ identity and travel documents and force them into sex work.
In May this year, an EU report on human trafficking revealed that organised criminal groups were using the migrant crisis to force more people into modern slavery and sex work. Over a 12-month period between 2013 and 2014, the study found that there were 15 846 “registered victims” of human trafficking in EU member states.
Of these victims, the majority (67%) were trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation. Twenty-one percent were trafficked for labour exploitation, while the other 12% were registered as victims of trafficking for other forms of exploitation. At least 15% of all victims were found to be children. The top five non-EU countries of citizenship where victims of trafficking came from were Nigeria, China, Albania, Vietnam and Morocco.
Presenting the report, EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs, and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos, said: “It is morally and legally unacceptable and inexcusable that in the EU of the 21st century, there are human beings who are bought, sold and exploited like commodities.
“It is our personal, collective and legal duty to stop this. We have put in place a strong and forward-looking legislative framework to do this. Our main responsibility is to ensure it is now fully implemented so that those responsible are prosecuted and the victims are fully protected and assisted.”