A government report in November 2013 showed that a girl from Somalia was smuggled to the United Kingdom for the sole purpose of having her organs harvested. This is the first known such case but child protection charities say it’s unlikely that it’s an isolated incident.
Moreover, the report continues to say that 371 children were exploited, including 95 from Vietnam, 67 from Nigeria, and 25 from China. Victims of trafficking are often forced into various positions of servitude.
In the case of the unnamed Somali girl, as detailed in the report, her organs were meant to be sold to people in need of a transplant.
The Salvation Army provides support for victims of trafficking on behalf of the Ministry of Justice. Major Anne Read, an anti-trafficking coordinator, said that the problem of organ harvesting might have been in existence for some time already.
According to the World Health Organization as many as 7,000 kidneys are stolen by traffickers every year around the world. There is a black market for hearts, lungs, and livers too, but kidneys are by far the highest in demand.
In most cases where an organ has been obtained illegally, it’s been either forced out of the victim, or the victim has been convinced to sell it, or it’s been removed from an unsuspecting patient as part of another surgery, needed or not.
From start to finish there are plenty of people involved, including the initial spotter who identifies a possible target, somebody who can arrange for international transport, medics who remove the organ/s, and a salesperson to handle the final transaction of money.
Chief executive of UK child protection charity Ecpat, Bharti Patel said the Somali girl brought to the UK was most likely not on her own.
“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,” Patel said.
The current maximum sentence for human trafficking is 14 years, but proposed changes to the law suggest that repeat offenders will receive an automatic life sentence.
“Modern slavery is an appalling evil in our midst,” said crime and security ministers James Brokenshire. “All this is a good start, but we need everyone to play a part – government, law enforcement, business, charities – if we are to consign slavery to the history books where it belongs.”