Syrian Refugees Selling Organs to Escape to Europe
Syrian refugees are selling their organs on the black market in order to gain money to get to Europe.1 Desperate and penniless, these refugees turn to selling the only thing they can- their own organs. Experts are concerned that the profits are funding crime and terrorist networks, often the very systems that the refugees are trying to escape.1, 2
Dr. Campbell Fraser, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of International Business and Asian Studies at Griffith University, says that illegal organ trade is not a new development but that the market has shifted from China and the Philippines to Egypt and Turkey in recent years.1 Current research shows a disproportionate amount of organ trade involving Syria. Dr. Fraser has been working alongside European law enforcement organizations to determine the link between organ traffickers and organized criminal groups, particularly in countries with high levels of terrorism and donors such as Syria.1
The operation is performed exclusively in Egypt due to its sophisticated transplantation facilities and developed hospitals.2 In the large majority of countries, the sale of organs is illegal, but a gray area exists in a few countries where although it is illegal, officials ignore the sale after being paid off.2 As a result, there is a thriving black market in North Africa.2
The majority of organ recipients are wealthy citizens of China and Western countries, yet 60% of those recipients had organs from Syrians.2 The high level of donations is due to the war causing a lack of money paired with a need to flee the country. According to Dr. Fraser, the traffickers charge the refugees a high price for transportation across the Mediterranean to Europe.2 Due to successful anti-trafficking campaigns in recent years,less organs are being donated the price of organs has risen due to increased demand and lower supply. A kidney is currently worth around $100,000, enough for the seller and five members of his or her family to safely get to Europe.1,2 Although Syrian citizens are the ones selling their own organs, they receive less than 5% of the sale.
Professor Duminda Wijesekera, a money laundering expert from George Mason University, says that the remaining money is collected by intermediate parties that work with the smugglers who get people to Europe.1 Wijesekera is concerned that the money “directly and indirectly feeds ISIS” by going to the people who supply weapons and fighters.1 The traffickers actually prefer this method over getting cash from the refugees because they profit more as a result.2 "Ultimately the only way to stop organ trafficking is if we increase the availability of organs in each country," Wijesekera said.
Due to the severity of the refugee crisis, organ trafficking is unlikely to stop any time soon. Dr. Fraser notes that there are literally thousands of people who received organs through this method and that there are two sides of the story: both the organ sellers and buyers are equally desperate.2 The buyers must make the choice between dying or buying an organ. The organ trade system has become lucrative because of this high demand, and the brokers can buy at low prices and sell at high prices, resulting in enormous profits on their end.2
Gregory, Katherine. "Syrian Refugees Selling Their Organs on the Black Market to Get to Europe: Experts." ABC News. 3 Jan. 2017. Web. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-01-04/syrian-refugees-selling-their-organs-on-the-black-market'/8160496
"Syrian Refugees Sell Kidneys on Black Market to Fund Escape to Europe." Sputniknews.com. Radio Sputnik, 6 Jan. 2017. Web. https://sputniknews.com/middleeast/201701061049319448-syria-refugees-kidneys-sale/