SPANISH police have helped smash a European car theft ring and recover 352 stolen vehicles being smuggled across borders by land and sea.
Another 1,077 stolen vehicle parts were also found and dozens of forged vehicle documents seized.
And at the same time the fortnight-long operation caught 2,985 illegal migrants on the way into the EU via land and sea routes.
In total 44,548 checks were made in the framework of the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats (EMPACT).
Led by the European Border and Coast Guard Agency FRONTEX, the operation focused on checks on border crossing points iin 17 EU countries and five countries in the Balkan region.
In close cooperation with private industry, including the car industry, boats/vessels manufacturers, rental and leasing companies as well as the use of Europol databases, the border control officers at the external EU border prevented many vehicles and boats from being smuggled overseas.
For example the Greek Police seized 15 rental vehicles, which criminals attempted to smuggle out from the EU.
As well as the illegal migrants, 17 people smugglers were identified and arrested. The main destination countries of the migrants were Germany and Italy. The facilitators transported the migrants on land routes in trailers as well on small boats via the Adriatic Sea.
FRONTEX set up a Coordination Centre at its headquarters in Warsaw, where officers from participating countries exchanged operational and intelligence information.
Europol supported remotely by cross checking in real time the information collected in the field against its databases.
Police and border forces from Albania, Austria, Bosnia Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Spain all took part, as did Interpol and Frontex.