WE EXPLAIN | What does human trafficking for the purpose of organ removal look like?

ОБЪЯСНЯЕМ | Как выглядит торговля людьми с целью извлечения органов?

About 5 to 10 percent of all transplants worldwide use organs from the black market. WE EXPLAIN | What does human trafficking for the purpose of organ removal look like? Human Rights

Trafficking in persons for the purpose of organ removal is surrounded by myths and misconceptions. In movies, it is often depicted as follows: a person regains consciousness while sitting in a bathtub filled with ice – and without a kidney. However, the reality is much more complicated…

What is human trafficking for organ harvesting?

It is a form of human trafficking in which victims are exploited for organ harvesting. Although people often voluntarily consent to the removal of their organs, their consent cannot be considered legal if deception, fraud or abuse of a vulnerable position is involved. 

Truckers, who are usually part of complex criminal networks profit from the sale of these organs to recipients who cannot or will not wait for a legal transplant.

How widespread is this crime in the world?

In 2007, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that approximately 5 to 10 percent of all transplants worldwide use organs from the black market. Given the growth and aging of the global population, as well as increased population mobility, the real figure may be significantly higher.

The exact scale of such criminal activity is not known for certain, and research is difficult because the nature of the black market makes data collection and verification difficult. In addition, victims are often hesitant to go to the police because selling organs is considered a crime in most countries.

Why there is a demand for clandestine organ transplants?

The demand for human trafficking for organ harvesting is largely driven by a global shortage of organs available for legal transplant procedures. More than 150,000 transplants are performed worldwide each year, but this meets less than 10 percent of global demand.

Desperation drives patients to resort to illegal means. Organ trafficking, which includes human trafficking for organ harvesting, is a lucrative criminal business worth between $840 million and $1.7 billion annually.

Which organs are most common? total recovered in this form of human trafficking?

The most commonly removed organs from victims are kidneys, as well as parts of the liver.

How traffickers operate?

Traffickers typically operate within global networks with complex infrastructure that includes medical specialists, logistical coordination, and access to medical facilities. They contact their victims using local advertisements, social networks, or direct contact with recruiters who may themselves be former victims.

Such criminal networks are highly organized and flexible, they often function as mobile units or specialized teams.

The key players in the entire system are the intermediaries who coordinate logistics, recruit medical workers, and produce false documents. To ensure smooth operations, they interact with health care officials, hospital administrators, customs officials and law enforcement officials.

Detecting such crimes is often difficult because traffickers teach victims to pretend to be relatives of the recipient organs to avoid suspicion when examined in hospitals or clinics.

Who are the victims?

Victims of this form of human trafficking typically come from poor, uneducated and vulnerable populations. Organized crime groups often target the unemployed, migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. Many victims are coerced, deceived, or view organ sales as a last resort to improve their plight.

Some victims receive limited financial compensation for donating their organs, others receive no money at all , and sometimes post-operative care. In two thirds of cases, the donors are men.

How illegal transplantation affects victims?

Long-term consequences for The victims’ health can be devastating, with many experiencing a dramatic deterioration in their physical condition after surgery, as well as stigma and depression. The psychological impact often leads to a further deterioration in living standards, trapping them in a cycle of poverty and disease.

What the UN is doing to address this problem?

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) provides technical and legislative assistance to strengthen the criminal justice system in the fight against trafficking in persons for the purpose of organ removal. To assist criminal justice workers, UNODC has published a Guide to Investigating and Prosecuting Trafficking in Persons.


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