In Greece, the trade in eggs and babies is flourishing, as poor young women from Bulgaria and Romania are blackmailed into handing over infants. Perpetrators can often rely on accomplices within the local government.
In Greece, babys are available for 15,000 euros
Elektra Koutra is fighting to help foreign women get their children back. The young lawyer is convinced that criminal networks in Greece are blackmailing poor women from Bulgaria and Romania into selling their babies to childless couples. Koutra, who is representing a Romanian mother in court, says the Greek authorities have been slow to respond to the fight against the baby trade.
In January, Bulgarian and Greek police arrested 14 people over allegations that they trafficked newborn babies to Greece. According to Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov, most of the babies were of Roma origin.
Baby trafficking is a thriving black market industry in Greece, which does not regulate private adoptions. Pregnant women from Bulgaria or Romania are brought across the border to give birth. According to Greek media reports, the price for a baby from Bulgaria or Romania ranges from 15,000 to 25,000 euros ($20,000-$34,000). The mother won't get more than 3,000 euros, and is threatened with violence should she change her mind.
Hormone shots ensure more eggs will be ready
Alexandros Zavos, director of the Institute for Migration Policy in Athens, suspects many human traffickers have accomplices among the state officials.
On the islands, says Zavos, it is believed that citizens act as helpers to the smugglers by informing them of upcoming police checks, he added. In some cases, police even take advantage of victms.
"In the city of Patras, two port police officers were accused of having robbed refugees," he adds.
In another case cited in a 2009 UN Trafficking in Persons Report, a trafficking victim was allegedly raped while in police custody, and the three police officers suspected of the crime remained free on bail as their court case continued.
Traffickers aren't just limited to selling babies. On the northern border of Greece, there is now a flourishing illegal trade in donor eggs, according to Athens lawyer Elektra Kourta. Poor women from Bulgaria, Romania and Latvia come to Greece for a few weeks and are treated with hormone injections to produce as many eggs as possible, says Kourta.
"Many of these women are victims of human trafficking and forced prostitution, but they are not subject to health controls. And they are hardly aware of possible complications."
Many women who sell their eggs are victims of forced prostitution
The best way to help the victims is in their home country, says migration researcher Alexandros Zavos. In 2008, Zavos led a reintegration program for female victims of human trafficking and forced prostitution in Moldova.
"In the beginning they need a lot of psychological support, because many suffer from severe disturbances and suicidal thoughts," Zavos said.
Another important component of the program is the training. Zavos's program didn't give the women cash, but offered to finance job training and to help with career placement.
Reintegration programs are important, he says, because human trafficking isn't going anywhere. The trade in human beings will be a part of everyday life, says Zavos, as long as criminal gangs can make a lot of money off it.
Author: Jannis Papadimitriou / sh
Editor: Andreas Illmer