Cross-border cooperation at EU level

To work together at EU level, member states could examine opportunities for closer cooperation. They could for example:

Agree to strengthen multidisciplinary cooperation and to have further meetings on the subject within EMPACT THB

Tackling THB for labour exploitation is one of the goals included in the Operational Action Plan of EMPACT THB. An EMPACT meeting about THB for labour exploitation took place at Europol in July 2015 and included representatives of both police forces and labour inspectorates.

The benefits of such meetings are that they enable police and labour inspectorates from different countries to come together and share knowledge on the phenomenon, trends and modus operandi. They can share operational information on the organised crime groups involved (supported by Europol). And they can discuss the development of a joint strategy to tackle THB for labour exploitation, such as joint actions or joint investigations. Good practises can also be shared.

More information about EMPACT THB.

Share signs with Europol’s Focal Point Phoenix

Since many cases of THB for labour exploitation involve two or more countries, member states could share signs of THB for labour exploitation via their National Desks at Europol for cross checks or only with Europol. Europol - through its Focal Point Phoenix - can build up the overall intelligence picture by operational analysis and operational overviews of trends and modus operandi.

The analysis and cross-matches made by Europol could lead to cross-border cases being identified. They could help Europol to build a more complete picture of the phenomenon in the EU. Some countries are allowed to share law enforcement information with Europol and with other countries before an investigation has been started. They are therefore able to share signs of THB. Other countries are only allowed to share information once an investigation has been initiated and the information has become more solid.

More information about Focal Point Phoenix.

Share information from cases with Europol’s Focal Point Phoenix

If member states share information from an ongoing national or joint case of THB for labour exploitation with Focal Point Phoenix, automatic cross-checks will be carried out. These could turn up (further) links with cases in other member states. It can help avoid a situation in which two or more countries are investigating the same person(s) without knowing it.

If member states are pursuing the same suspects, they could decide to coordinate their cases, or to set up a joint investigation. In addition to the cross-checks, Europol can also carry out an analysis of the information provided and advise the member state(s) on how to proceed with the case.

For example, in 2015 Europol supported Operation Mustily, a British and Slovak investigation.

More information about Focal Point Phoenix.

Share new trends of THB for labour exploitation

New trends of THB for labour exploitation that are identified in one country often spread to other countries. Member states can share information on new trends through meetings in Brussels or at Europol (for example EMPACT THB), Eurojust, Frontex and so on, so that other member states will know what to look for.

Read more about how EU agencies help fight THB for labour exploitation.

Participate in operational meetings at Europol

Europol facilitates operational meetings between member states to discuss cooperation on criminal investigations. During these meetings, investigators from different member states can share operational and strategic information related to cross-border investigations. They can define strategies to enhance results and tackle Organised Crime Groups active in more than one member state, for example through parallel investigations or Joint Investigation Teams (JITs). In addition to criminal investigation services such as the police, labour inspectorates can also be invited to these meetings.

Participate in coordination meetings at Eurojust

Judicial authorities (prosecutors and investigating judges), investigators from the member states and third states, as well as representatives from other relevant organisations (for example Europol) could participate in coordination meetings. These meetings facilitate cooperation during the investigation and prosecution of cases of THB for labour exploitation.

For example, in 2013, Eurojust assisted in simplifying and speeding up the investigative and judicial cooperation between the authorities of two member states conducting a criminal investigation into an organised crime group. Read more about this Eurojust case.

Establish more Joint Investigation Teams (JITs)

Member states could set up Joint Investigation Teams (JIT) for investigations into cases of THB for labour exploitation that are linked to two or more countries.

For example, the United Kingdom and Romania set up a JIT to jointly investigate cases of trafficking involving Romanian Roma children.

Read more about JITs.

Cooperate on keeping in touch with victims who have returned home

Multidisciplinary cooperation across borders is essential when victims of THB for labour exploitation decide to go home. Read more information on cooperating when victims go home and the Transnational Referral Mechanisms for victims.

Second an investigator from the responsible law enforcement agency to Europol

This could for example be an investigator from the labour inspectorate. Countries where the labour inspectorate has investigative powers could consider seconding a criminal investigator from the inspectorate to their liaison desk at Europol. The Inspectorate SZW of the Netherlands for example has done this.

Countries where another service like the police is responsible for investigations into THB for labour exploitation could consider seconding an investigator who specialises in THB for labour exploitation. Their labour inspectorate could then cooperate and share information with Europol through this specialised liaison officer.

Organise joint action days

During the Joint Action Days that are organised each year as part of EMPACT THB, activities could be organised to tackle THB for labour exploitation. Both labour inspectorates and police forces could take part. It is necessary to share information on specific targets and trends in advance, to assist in the identification of shared interests in particular activities planned for such days.

Between 28 May and 5 June 2016, Europol supported EU-wide Joint Action Days. The Joint Action Days were carried out by labour inspectorates and law enforcement authorities that target organised crime groups trafficking vulnerable people for the purpose of labour exploitation. As a result, 47 suspects were arrested for THB for labour exploitation, 23 new investigations were launched and 275 victims were identified. Read more about these Joint Action Days.

Share trends of THB for labour exploitation with Frontex

Frontex collects trends on THB for labour exploitation for the purpose of their EU Risk Profiles Handbook. This provides a list of indicators and risk profiles for EU states to use. If trends of trafficking are shared with Frontex, they can be included in their Handbook, which in turn will then reach all states using the Frontex Handbook during training or operation.

Frontex may also use these trends to develop new possibilities for countermeasures to be taken by law enforcement, as distributed through their VEGA Handbook on the detection and disruption of criminal organisations involved in the trafficking of human beings and people smuggling at air borders.

More information about Frontex.

Create overviews of EU labour inspectorates, police forces and border guards, and their mandates

Member states could work together to discuss and create overviews of the responsible labour inspectorates, police forces and border guards (or other responsible entities) within the EU. The overviews could include information on their mandates and contact details for different kinds of questions and for example a service number which can be reached 24/7 in case of emergency - or when unable to reach the primary responsible.

Create a website or portal - or use an existing one

On this website or portal, all information regarding THB for labour exploitation can be brought together and shared with EU partners. There are currently many different websites where information on THB for labour exploitation can be found. They all contain only part of the relevant information. It could be useful to create a website where all relevant reports, handbooks, events and so on would be made available to the organisations involved.

An example of a website that may be used for this is the Europol Platform for Experts (EPE).