Imagine the horror of losing friends and family members. Fleeing your homeland. Scrambling to survive in a refugee camp that is over-crowded and under-sourced.
You are now prey for bounty-hunters. The price: your kidney. Your eye.
Syrian refugees trying to survive in Lebanon are finding themselves in this wicked “market place.”
The young man, who called himself Raïd, wasn’t doing well. He climbed into the backseat of the car, in pain, careful not to touch any corners. He was exhausted and dizzy. A large bandage looped around his stomach, caked with blood. Despite that, the 19-year-old Syrian wanted to tell his story.
Seven months ago, he fled the embattled city of Aleppo, in Syria, to Lebanon with his parents and six siblings. The family quickly ran out of money in the capital, Beirut. Raïd heard from a relative that the solution could be to sell one of his kidneys, and then he spoke to a bull-necked man, now sitting in the passenger seat, smoking and drinking a bee
His acquaintances call the man Abu Hussein. He said he’s employed by a gang that works in the human organ trade – specializing in kidneys. The group’s business is booming. About one million Syrians have fled into Lebanon because of the civil war in their home country and now many don’t know how they can make a living. In their distress, they sell their organs. It’s a dangerous and, of course, illegal business. That’s why the gang has its operations performed in shady underground clinics.
Abu Hussein’s boss is known in the poor areas of Beirut as “Big Man.” Fifteen months ago, Big Man gave the 26-year-old a new assignment: find organ donors. The influx of Syrian refugees from the war, Abu Hussein’s boss argued, made it more likely people would be willing to sell organs.
Raïd got about $7,000 for his kidney, and experts estimate that somewhere between 5,000 to 10,000 kidneys are brokered on the black market annually. Meanwhile, Hussein garners $600-$700 for each organ he manages to scavenge, and says, “I’m currently looking for someone who has an eye for sale.”