Illegal organ trafficking is a dangerous and lucrative industry - with an estimated annual turnover of 1.5 billion dollars. Over the past few years, traffickers have more and more targeted vulnerable migrants and refugees in camps. This phenomena is the subject of an investigative book by the Italian journalist Franca Porciani, with Patrizia Borsellino, entitled 'Vite a Perdere' ('Lives to Lose'.)
The book was presented in Rome in the presence of the director of the Italian national transport center (CNT), Massimo Cardillo.
Profiting off migrants' desperation
Journalist Porciani said:
"This terrible market no longer thrives only on human merchandise that is found in pockets of miserable poverty throughout the world. It has also crept into the populations fleeing Africa, tormented by wars and drought, who crowd refugee camps and fill boats headed towards Europe. The trafficking network, with its brokers, its criminal surgeons, and obliging institutions, profits off the desperation of these people and does not shy away from even children."
Many victims, he said, "are thus refugees, mainly those in refugee camps in Lebanon."
'If the families could not pay, the migrant was killed and his organs taken'
"The trafficking," the author said, "is mainly for organs that can be taken out of people who are still alive, such as kidneys and livers."
But there have been cases where migrants or refugees were murdered for their organs, Porciani said. "Several investigations between 2008 and 2013 on migrants that cross the Sinai desert to arrive in Europe [documented this]", he explained. "Coming mostly from Eritrea, [the migrants] were often taken hostage by Bedouins, who demanded ransoms from the victims' families in their countries of origin. If the families could not pay, the migrant was killed and his organs taken."
Italy not affected
Organ trafficking does not affect Italy, however, Massimo Cardillo said: "We can say with absolute certainty that in our country, transplants have never been performed outside of the legal circuit in authorized public facilities.''
The national transplant center (CNT), he said, "carefully and constantly monitors the waiting list for patients. This monitoring makes it possible, for example, to verify whether a patient unexpectedly left the list or if they reappear in our databases with an unregistered transplant of an unknown origin. These two situations have never happened in our country."