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A press conference was held today, 8 March 2024, at the headquarters of the Croatian police in Zagreb, where representatives of the Croatian police presented the activities of the ZeBRA international operational task force.

The aim of the ZeBRA operational task force is to dismantle organised crime groups operating in several countries, as was singled out by the speakers. They emphasised that Croatia has been facing pressure from illegal migration in recent years, which includes criminal offences of human smuggling. The particularly active so-called Western Balkans route passes mainly through Bosnia and Herzegovina, which means via Croatia to Slovenia, and then on to destination countries in Western Europe.

As head of the Criminal Police Directorate at the General Police Directorate Damjan Petrič also stressed at the press conference, international police cooperation and the rapid exchange of quality information are particularly important in preventing organised forms of people smuggling.

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Establishment of the ZeBRA operational task force

Migrant smuggling is a form of organised crime of a predominantly international character, which is why the ZeBRA operational task force was set up, with the help of Europol, in order to ensure a higher level of cooperation between countries and institutions. The task force is led by Croatia with the assistance of Slovenia. Its partner country is Bosnia and Herzegovina, Germany has also joined and Romania is expected to join soon.

The aim of the operational task force is to carry out complex criminal investigations that disrupt organised crime groups operating in several countries. Since 2016, more than 8,000 smugglers have been arrested. An added value of the operational task force's work is that it generates a wealth of criminal intelligence that is of value not only to the task force members, but also to the Member States and Europol itself.

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The success of some of the actions in the framework of Europol's Joint Action Days

In one of the most recent criminal investigations, members of an organised crime group were arrested for organising a legal entry of mainly Turkish nationals into Bosnia and Herzegovina and their subsequent illegal transport in goods vehicles across Croatian territory to other EU countries.

Another important criminal investigation dealt with the smuggling of migrants from Serbia across the Danube to the territory of Croatia, where smugglers prepared hiding places for the relocated migrants and then attempted to transport them in lorries and vans to destinations in other European Union countries.

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144 people smugglers have already been arrested in Slovenia this year

In 2024, by 6 March, the Slovenian police have handled 127 cases (compared to 32 in the same period last year), in which 144 people smugglers (142 foreigners and 2 Slovenian citizens) with 803 irregular migrants have been arrested. 131 people smugglers were remanded in custody.

In 2023, the Slovenian police dealt with 479 cases (compared to 242 in 2022), in which 557 people smugglers (548 foreigners and 9 Slovenian citizens) with 3,280 irregular migrants were arrested. 514 smugglers were remanded in custody.

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