The longer the refugee crisis in Europe continues the more vile stories seem to emerge about the horrific crimes happening concurrently. Here are the responses of our staff to today’s news that refugees who cannot afford to pay smugglers are being sold for their organs:


Is this real?

That is the first thing I think when I read a headline like, “Refugees who cannot pay people-smugglers ‘being sold for organs.’” My mind starts to do backbends. This seems like a plot of a Hollywood horror movie, some sort of modern “Hostel” nightmare. Who would do such a thing? What sort of person could kill others for a profit? After I think that, I realize, “Lots of people could, and lots of people have.”

History shows that people kill one another for all sorts of reasons, and money can easily be a primary motivation. This is what we have: 65 million refugees, an unprecedented number, surrounded by people ready and willing to take advantage of those numbers and their inherent anonymity. With those numbers of course you could kill and get away with it. Of course someone has found a way to make money off of it. Of course, like many other real-life horror stories, many will simply be unable to believe it. But we must believe these stories, because ignoring them or denying them takes us one step closer to even larger human tragedies, like genocide.


This is extremely depressing and seems like the plot of a horror film rather than the grotesque reality that it sadly is. I realize that organ trafficking has been going on for a long time, but to target and then murder migrants who are at an extremely vulnerable moment in their lives makes me sick.


This is a disgusting example of the kinds of atrocities refugees and trafficking victims could potentially face on a daily basis. I had heard of “organ harvesting” before, but to read these articles and contextualize it within a European perspective is completely unthinkable. Clearly though, organ harvesting is a real and systematic operation affecting large numbers of people. It is one of the many horrors facing victims of human trafficking; it is also one of the many sub-crises within the ongoing and overarching refugee crisis.


Criminals are adept at profiting from other people’s tragedies and as more are displaced the more successful and evolved the criminal element becomes.  First we learned of smuggling people out of conflict zones (arguably that was only to help them), then we learned of organized human trafficking networks including sex trafficking of children and today we heard of organ harvesting.

But wasn’t it always thus? The use of humans as cargo is hardly a new problem. Slavery has existed for thousands of years along with prostitution and sexual exploitation of the vulnerable and the young. Sexual violence during the Holocaust and in the refugee crisis after World War II was widespread, albeit little discussed and taboo for many years after.

So why does today’s revelation shock us so? Why does the idea of killing a person for their organs strike us as fundamentally worse than someone being sent to an inevitable death on an unseaworthy boat?

For some of us it might because the desecration of an intact body violates religious edicts and beliefs.

I guess for me it is the idea that at their absolutely most vulnerable moment, robbed of hope, they had their bodies taken apart.  When we are no longer whole we have lost our true selves. Aren’t we all more than the sum of our parts?

Article published July 5th, 2016 in the The Independent: Refugees who cannot pay people smugglers ‘being sold for organs’

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