A dozen people were arrested and more than 260 potential victims of exploitation were identified across Europe following police raids at vineyards and farms, Europol announced on Tuesday.
The European police agency said coordinated action against human trafficking for labour exploitation was carried out in September.
Police raids were carried out at 704 locations in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Finland, France, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, and Spain. More than 2,000 officers were involved. Eight people were arrested in France and four in Spain.
The week of action also enabled the authorities to identify 54 suspected traffickers and 269 possible victims of exploitation. Half of them, 134, were found in Italy, followed by France (91) and Spain (24).
More than 120 investigations have since been launched, the bulk of which, 93, in France.
“A successful operation in France dismantled a criminal network, which has generated an estimated €5 million in damages for victims and authorities,” Europol also said in its statement.
“During the actions against this network, authorities searched 25 locations and arrested winegrowers, service providers and intermediaries,” it added.
The harvest of grapes on French vineyards started on September 9 this year. French winemakers reported difficulties in hiring grape pickers this year, likely due to a combination of COVID-19 apprehension and poor summer weather conditions, which pushed the harvest back, and deprived vineyards of student workers.