Human Trafficking Enters A New Marketplace: Organ Harvesting
Religion & Liberty Online

Human Trafficking Enters A New Marketplace: Organ Harvesting

There have been whispers of it before, but now it has been confirmed: trafficking humans in order to harvest organs. The Telegraph is reporting that an underage Somali girl was smuggled into Britain with the intent of harvesting her organs for those desperately waiting for transplants.

Child protection charities warned last night that criminal gangs were attempting to exploit the demand for organ transplants in Britain.

Bharti Patel, the chief executive of Ecpat UK, the child protection charity, said: “Traffickers are exploiting the demand for organs and the vulnerability of children. It’s unlikely that a trafficker is going to take this risk and bring just one child into the UK. It is likely there was a group.”

According to the World Health Organisation as many as 7,000 kidneys are illegally obtained by traffickers each year around the world.

Human trafficking of children for the sex trade and as domestic slaves is well-documented, but numbers are difficult to pin down. The smuggling of humans for organ harvesting is an area that has not been heavily investigated, but one that officials believe will increase. The phenomenon of “transplant tourism”, where people travel to the developing world to “purchase” kidneys and livers has been discussed for a number of years, and some countries (such as Kuwait and Pakistan) have very loose legal standards regarding this practice. The practice of trafficking humans specifically for organ harvesting is still relatively new to law enforcement, requiring heightened awareness in the international legal community.

Elise Hilton

Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.