North and West Africa susceptible to organ traffickers

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Organ trafficking is not new to international law enforcement with Interpol this month indicating the obscene practice of trafficking in human beings for organ removal (THBOR) is a worldwide occurrence, it is of particular concern in north and west Africa.

This because impoverished communities and displaced populations are at “greater risk of exploitation” the Lyon, France, headquartered worldwide police organisation numbering 194 countries on its membership list, maintains.

A just released Interpol strategic assessment report produced as part of Project ENACT provides insight and analysis into the issue to enable law enforcement agencies in the northern and western parts of Africa to devise appropriate responses.

Organised crime groups are known to be behind trafficking in human beings for organ removal, drawn by substantial profits according to an Interpol statement.

“Information suggests there is a wide spectrum of people involved in organ trafficking in north and west Africa with connections to the medical sector in countries from Africa and beyond, notably Asia and the Middle East.

“Trafficking in human organs can exist only in a framework of complex networks, due to required skills (medical specialists, surgeons, nurses), logistics (matching compatible patients and donors) and healthcare facilities (analytical laboratories, clinics, operating rooms) involved.

“The report shows probable links between transplant tourism – where a patient travels to buy an organ for illegal transplant – and THBOR in north and west Africa. Either in the context of transplants done in North Africa with organs illegally sourced in the region or transplants elsewhere with illegally sourced organs from northern and western African nationals.

“Organised criminal groups profit from the desperation of the unemployed, migrants, asylum seekers and refugees and coerce them into selling organs. Victims of human trafficking for sexual and labour purposes are also at risk.

“Techniques used for recruitment and control of victims are the same as those used in other human trafficking, including promises of job opportunities abroad, as well as threats and violence.

“Victim donors often receive smaller amounts of money than agreed with the recruiter or broker and in some cases they may not get any of the promised payment. Many victim donors suffer post-operative complications and health issues.”

The statement continues pointing out the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 is expected to “fuel” THBOR as it will be easier for brokers to coerce vulnerable individuals to improve their economic conditions by selling organs. Exacerbated this is legal organ donations and transplants decreased significantly since the outbreak of COVID-19.

“Trafficking in human beings for organ removal is not a new phenomenon, it is under-reported because of the clandestine nature of the crime, combined with a lack of awareness by law enforcement agencies and a deficiency of information sharing channels between medical and police sectors,” Cyril Gout, Interpol director: operational support and analysis, said.

The report supports law enforcement agencies in setting priorities to identify potential victims, investigate trafficking in cases motivated by the organ trade and target criminal networks facilitating THBOR.

Project ENACT (Enhancing Africa’s Response to Transnational Organised Crime) seeks to assist African police with proactive strategies to combat organised crime threats, facilitate information exchange and enhance investigative skills.