The Hague, Netherlands (WNN) – Law enforcement officers raided hundreds of vineyards and farms across Europe last month while cracking down on the exploitation of agricultural workers, EU police agency Europol announced Tuesday.
Eight suspects were arrested in France and four in Spain; A total of 54 suspected human traffickers were identified in France, Italy, Spain and Latvia; Europol said in a statement, and officials found more than 250 potentially exploited victims in raids during the European harvesting season between September 9-16. The police agency helped coordinate the inspection.
Employing seasonal workers in poor conditions and for low wages, including victims of human trafficking, is big business.
“Labor exploitation is a very lucrative criminal activity, which harms the health and rights of the victims,” Europol said.
An operation in France destroyed a criminal network responsible for depriving victims and tax officials of around 5 million euros ($5.8 million). Europol said investigators targeting the network searched 25 locations and arrested grape growers and other suspects. It was not disclosed where the raid took place.
The operation was led by officials in France and involved police, immigration and border guards, labor inspectorates and tax officials from Bulgaria, Cyprus, Finland, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands and Spain. It launched 126 new investigations in six countries, most of them in France.