Refugees are the most prominent victims of organ trafficking in Egypt

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News continues in Egypt about gangs specialising in the organ trade, and warnings spread about the increase in the number of children and women being kidnapped to steal their organs, especially among refugees. According to the United Nations, the human organ trade market has become popular over the past years as Egypt is ranked fifth globally in this trade.

The human organ trade is spreading in Egypt through temptation, theft, and coercion. Gangs specialise in bringing sellers to organ buyers after luring them with money, taking advantage of poverty, and the economic crisis. The temptation is to persuade the client to sell one of his organs, followed by a medical analysis. The price ranges between EGP 50,000 and 100,000, according to testimonies from the victims.

The victim (seller) declares in writing that he wants to donate one of his organs without payment, to circumvent the law that criminalises the sale of organs for a fee. Some interpreted this with poor economic conditions, high unemployment, weak citizens’ ability to meet their basic daily needs, and the high level of poverty. It came to the point of announcing human organs for sale on public transport, on the streets, through the media and on social networks.

The second type of organ trade is through the theft of organs from the corpses of the newly deceased inside hospitals and medical centres or while undergoing medical surgery and undergoing treatment. This is revealed by the large number of cases involving doctors and nurses who stole dead organs or from patients undergoing treatment.

Kidnap and snatch

The third and most dangerous type is coercion, whereby organs are forcibly removed from live bodies after their abduction, and children are a common commodity in the organ trade. From time to time, gangs specialising in this field are uncovered, as they supply the kidnapped child to business people and doctors. Recently, video clips circulated from surveillance cameras on the streets on social media, showing cases of children being kidnapped in broad daylight.

The spread of the phenomenon and the absence of security on the streets and cities raised Egyptian families’ fears, especially in light of the circulation of reports that kidnappings are carried out to steal human organs. 6th of October City in Giza Governorate has become a popular market in the trade of human organs due to the presence of refugees, especially Sudanese who tell tragic stories.

Human organs trade

Horrific stories have been told by Sudanese asylum seekers in Egypt who were kidnapped, robbed of their organs, failed to obtain their rights, and sometimes threatened in the event of reporting what they were subjected to. In 2016, the British Journal of Criminology published a study on human organ trade in Egypt and considered that this trade spread significantly after 2010.

The report mentioned that the Sudanese refugees, especially the illegal ones, constitute many victims, as most of them are afraid to report if they are ill after the operation. Even in the case of complaints, the Egyptian authorities do not consider them victims. A report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in 2012 indicated that many African migrants are killed in the Sinai desert in eastern Egypt to steal their organs.

Official figures of the High Commissioner for Refugees estimate the number of Sudanese refugees and asylum seekers in Egypt at about 26,000 people. But the actual numbers may be much higher due to the high number of people entering the country illegally. The testimonies of refugees reveal three main routes in the organ trade, including the kidnapping of the victim by force or under anesthesia. Many of them spoke in investigative reports of forcibly removing their kidneys. The second depends on the stealing of the victim’s organ from the victim under the guise of medical treatment. The third method involves a direct relationship between Egypt’s human organ trade networks and travel agents in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.

According to the accounts of anti-trade activists, one of the main problems is the victims’ fear of speaking. Organ trade gangs control the streets and threaten anyone who dares to speak. The articles of the Egyptian law regarding organ transplantation are punished with strict imprisonment and a fine of not less than EGP 500,000 ($29,000) and not more than EGP 1 million ($58,000) for everyone who transfers a human organ or part of it with the intention of trafficking.

The penalty will be death if it results in the death of the transferee, in addition to depriving the doctor of practicing the profession for a period not less than three years and not exceeding 10 years, and the closing of the unlicenced medical facility. But according to a study of the Journal of Criminology from the University of Oxford in Britain, the law did not contribute to curbing this illegal trade but rather increased its popularity on the black market.