Europol undertook a child trafficking combat action across 18 countries, including Belgium, during which it arrested 33 smugglers and identified 187 potential victims of human trafficking, including 92 minors.
Between 28 June and 4 July, the European Union's law enforcement agency worked together with various government agencies and services including police, immigration and border control services, child protection services and labour inspectorates, it said in a press release on Friday.
"The actions led to 175 arrests, 78 additional suspects identified, of which 33 were smugglers, and 181 new investigations initiated. Overall, 187 potential victims of human trafficking were identified, 92 of whom were confirmed to be minors," the press release read.
In total, around 12,000 officers checked approximately 186,400 people, 12,200 locations, 22,500 vehicles and 72,850 documents were involved in the actions to combat the trafficking of children who are used to beg, work, be sexually exploited and forced into petty crime.
According to the agency, children are usually smuggled by family members within the EU, which is why the focus of the actions was on children being trafficked by family clans for begging, coercion into committing crimes and sexual exploitation.
It also focused on unaccompanied minors or minors who had escaped from shelters, as this group of children are frequently reported for their use of forged or false documents.
Over ten years ago, the EU set up a four-year policy initiative to ensure the fight against serious international and organised crime, including human and child trafficking, which was extended in 2017 for the 2018-2021 period.
By improving and strengthening cooperation between the relevant services of the EU Member States, institutions and agencies, as well as non-EU countries and organisations, it looks to tackle the most significant threats posed by organised and serious international crime to the EU.