Organ trafficking mafias operate at will taking advantage of the desperation of the most vulnerable.
Many do not want them within European borders, but they do seem to want their organs.
They are the refugees, thousands and thousands of people, piled up on the borders of Europe, Asia and Turkey, fleeing from war, to whom many believe western society has completely turned its back on in their desperate attempt to get nothing else than a better life.
In this situation of total abandonment in which they are found, there are those who do business with them, organ traffickers, those who seek them on behalf of the wealthy for that kidney and, more and more frequently, livers, which they need to survive. In exchange for their organs, many refugees are given a ticket to enter Europe.
“All efforts being made to control illegal trafficking of organs are unsuccessful. The situation is worse, in the same proportion that Europe keeps refugees in abandonment.
The mafias, not only the one of this type of illegal commerce, but also the one of trafficking of people, operate openly and freely because they feed of the despair of the most vulnerable.
The head of Spain’s National Transplant Organization (ONT), Rafael Matesanz, estimates that between 5% and 10% of the world’s transplants are estimated to be carried out under some form of commercialization or are ethically and legally unacceptable.
The total reaches some 10,000 each year. The European Union calculates that the annual worldwide profit made from organ trafficking is of between 600 million and 1.2 billion dollars.
Organ trafficking and transplant tourism is a global problem, and it takes place on five continents.
The International Transplant Society, through the Custodian Group of the Istanbul Declaration, established in 2010, warns that such crimes are growing in East Africa, especially Sudan, Libya and Egypt, as well as in Turkey, precisely because of the socio-political situation of the regions and the refugee conflict.
Europol also warns of the illegal trade of organs, especially after the disappearance of 10,000 children upon arrival in Europe.
The European Police leaves in the air the fate of these minors – they may have regrouped with a family member, but there is no record of them – but warns that human trafficking has exploded in recent times. And within this kind of traffic there is the illegal trade of organs.
According to Europol, these criminal mafias kidnap the small ones in groups of two or three at the most and they conduct compatibility tests on children in illegal clinics. According to researchers, a kidney can be paid at 230,000 euros, while for a liver the figure would be around 135,000 euros.
That’s the money the mafias get. The donors, only get a few hundred euros. The European Police also speaks of adults who sell part of their body to pay for the trip that takes them out of their situation of extreme vulnerability.
Cases of organ sales have also been reported in the refugee camps themselves. Specifically, in Turkey, one of the largest refugee settlements in the country. “It’s hard to know what is going on there,” says Matesanz, “but there is evidence that the transplant activity is growing without us knowing where the organs come from.”
In that regard, Egypt is in the spotlight as the country is a transit point for migrants traveling to Europe. According to the NGOs, the traffickers have been acting with total impunity in the Sinai area, on the border separating Egypt from Israel.
Numerous corpses of migrants, mostly from Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea, were found in the desert, showing the absence of vital organs and striking scars.
The illegal sale also goes along the Cairo route. Matesanz recalls that one of the hospitals with the most activity of living liver transplants is precisely in Cairo.
According to a report by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 20% of refugees crossing Egypt to Israel suffer theft of an organ or are sexually harassed.
In 2011, a senior health official in the African country acknowledged that some 1,500 illegal organ transplants were carried out in the country each year in unlicensed centers.
But he said that 80% of these had been closed since the approval of the human organs law the previous year. However, a few months ago, more than 40 doctors, nurses and professors from renowned Egyptian hospitals and universities, as well as buyers and intermediaries, were detained after it was determined that they belonged to an international organ trafficking network.
According to the Egyptian Administrative Control Authority, “this is the largest international network of human organ trafficking”, involving more than ten hospitals and private clinics.
A reasonable question to ask is, who are receiving these organs? Matesanz, who led the Santiago de Compostela convention against organ trafficking promoted by the Council of Europe, clearly points to the surrounding Arab countries, such as Saudi Arabia or Kuwait. He also points to Israel, United States and Canada; and of course, EU countries.
“The United Kingdom, for example, has identified citizens who, after traveling abroad, have been discovered to have a new organ.
The European register of transplanted patients, launched by the Council of Europe, helps to identify cases, since that citizen needs post-intervention care,” he says. Patients have also been detected in the Netherlands.
“The statewide network of donations and transplants, public, universal and free, is the best weapon against organ trafficking,” says Matesanz. He insists that the trade is nourished by the abandonment of the most vulnerable people; those who flee their countries due to war, persecution and famine.