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Crackdown on human traficking during Euro 2012

THE EUROPEAN Union's external border agency has deployed dozens of officers to Poland's eastern border and various travel hubs across Europe to fight human trafficking and other forms of smuggling during Euro 2012.

Frontex expects more than a million people to enter Poland and Ukraine during the tournament that runs from Friday until July 1, a huge increase compared with normal times, the agency's deputy director said.

Gil Arias Fernandez added that criminals have tried to exploit the increased border traffic during huge sports events in the past to smuggle prostitutes as well as cigarettes, fuel and other contraband.

Though no specific cases have yet been detected, he said Frontex has launched Operation Euro Cup mainly to fight human trafficking.

"Smugglers might think that they have more chances to cross with their victims undetected than in normal circumstances," he told reporters at Frontex's headquarters in Warsaw.

Posing an additional challenge for border guards is the fact that Poland is in the EU and Ukraine outside the bloc. There will be a huge flow of people between the two countries, across a border that Poland tightened up when it joined the visa-free Schengen zone several years ago.

Mr Arias Fernandez said Frontex gained some experience dealing with a football tournament co-hosted by an EU and a non-EU member in 2008, when the event drew 1.2 million people to Austria and Switzerland.

He said 130 European border officers from 23 European countries had recently been deployed to Poland's eastern border to back up the work of Polish border guards. Further officers are beefing up capacity at major airports that are major hubs for fans travelling from the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain and the Netherlands.

Frontex is also sending 30 officers to five Ukrainian airports, though they will operate only as observers and will lack the power to make arrests. In exchange, Ukrainian, Russian and Croatian officers will be based in Poland, using their language or other knowledge to help detect criminals.

As a security precaution Poland also re-established random border checks this week with Germany and other EU countries where borders fell away in 2007.