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Nearly 90 Human Traffickers Arrested in International Sweep

FILE - A smuggler takes migrants, mostly from Central American countries, on a small inflatable raft towards U.S. soil in Roma, Texas, March 30, 2021.

Interpol says it has arrested 88 human traffickers and 63 migrant smugglers in an international operation. It said it also rescued 500 victims.

Smuggled migrants are described as those that have given their consent, while those trafficked are forced or deceived by criminals, according to Reuters.

The operation, called “Weke,” which means stop in Swahili, took place from March 28 to April 2 in 24 countries, including Kenya, Brazil and France.

One of the rescued is a 15-year-old Congolese girl, who Interpol said had been sexually abused while being smuggled to avoid a forced marriage.

Construction workers from Lebanon, Syria and Jordan also were rescued from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Interpol said they’d had their passports taken and had not been paid.

“These victims could not simply walk away from the horrific situation they found themselves in and the suffering they endured,” said Interpol Secretary General Juergen Stock, in a statement.

"We will continue to help countries untangle sensitive and complex cases, which will undoubtedly generate more arrests in the months to come."

Interpol said the COVID-19 pandemic propelled human trafficking and smuggling because “the most vulnerable are desperate to escape hardship, and the criminal networks are just keen to turn a profit.”