European and Turkish police have arrested 382 people during raids involving 28 countries on traffickers mainly operating in the Balkans and southeast Europe, Europol said Friday, Agence France-Presse reported.
Most of the individuals arrested last month face accusations of migrant, firearms or drug smuggling, Europol said in a statement.
Thousands of trucks take the Balkan route into the European Union, carrying various goods, including food and construction materials.
The route is also notorious for migrant smuggling and the trafficking of firearms and drugs into the bloc, Europol said.
At the Bulgarian checkpoint of Kapitan Andreevo on the border with Turkey, AFP on Oct. 28 witnessed authorities discover a migrant hidden in the roof of a truck.
The operation was coordinated by Europol and Spain, and nearly 16,000 officers took part from across Europe and Turkey, the policing agency said.
Other European countries also provided criminal intelligence.
🚨 382 arrests during joint actions against traffickers using the Balkan route.
— Europol (@Europol) November 4, 2022
In the mass raids, officers seized 106 firearms as well as drugs including cannabis and cocaine, Europol said.
According to Europol, multinational criminal organizations source weapons predominantly from the Western Balkans, “where human resources with expertise in firearms are widely available.”
The firearms are then trafficked into the European Union — mainly to Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain.
Criminal networks are then able to exchange arms for drugs and use weapons “to gain and maintain control over lucrative drug markets,” Europol said.