In its 5th annual report for the European Migrant Smuggling Centre, Europol provides an overview of its recent (operational) activities and identified trends related to combat human trafficking and human smuggling and looks ahead at expected challenges related to both international crimes. According to the report, exploiters increasingly seek to exploit their victims in the context of supposedly voluntary business agreements, while also legal business structures are commonly used to organise the exploitation of persons. Next to sexual and labour-related exploitation, Europol notes that criminals increasingly focus on exploiting persons into forced begging and forced criminality, particularly targeting vulnerable victims, like minors and disabled persons. In reaction to its findings, Europol recommends that an integral part of law enforcement investigations should be asset-tracing and financial investigations, leading to the effective confiscation of proceeds of these crimes. Furthermore Europol aims at developing a set of instruments to tackle the impact of digitalisation and online markets exploited by criminals, which will make it possible to bridge the gap between law enforcement intervention and developments in the criminal environment.
Eurojust’s annual 2020 report reveals that judicial authorities across the EU and beyond continued to intensify their cooperation and practical support was offered to 8800 cross-border criminal investigations in 2020. This cooperation contributed to the arrest of 2200 suspects and the freezing of EUR 1.9 billion in criminal assets. Eurojust helped to assist identifying and protecting trafficked persons in nearly 400 new and ongoing cases. Another recent Eurojust report on the Impact of COVID-19 on Judicial Cooperation in Criminal Matters, published in May, reveals that legal practitioners in EU Member States were facing various difficulties in dealing with cases involving judicial cooperation in criminal matters. These issues were repercussions of the measures implemented by the Member States to combat the spread of COVID-19 and affected all instruments commonly applied in the field of judicial cooperation. In the report, Eurojust confirms that unprecedented social changes triggered by the pandemic, created new opportunities for organised crime groups to gain illicit profit.