Combating Human Trafficking through Partnerships
ORGAN HARVESTING: INSIDE SOMALIA’S NEW ILLEGAL ORGAN TRADE
MOGADISHU: Fatiya is a 13 year old girl who goes to work every day as a house help in the rich suburbs of Mogadishu but lives with her mother in one of the most impoverished shanty suburbs of Mogadishu. She doubles up as one of the ‘children hunters’ who roam around Mogadishu streets to snap up children. What she does is criminal but she is coerced into it by agents of a new organ trade syndicate. They have taken advantage of the cruel poverty that defines lives of people in the shanty suburbs. In many countries, her action constitutes human trafficking for organ removal, a serious crime that could land her more than 30 years in prison. But at her age, she might not understand the risk of spending decades behind bars.
Fatiya works on an order basis. Each time she manages to take a child to the agents, she gets 1000 Somali shillings, that’s approximately US$1.74. The “reward” is enticing enough to make a young, unsuspecting girl like Fatiya help the dealers of the illegal organ trade.
The latest order was botched after she “mistakenly” told her mother who was extremely shocked and reported the matter to the police. The police raided the house of the syndicate and managed to rescue 12 children who were reportedly going to be trafficked to Kenya for other destinations through the Mandera border. Through the collaboration of the police, COHF (Candle of Hope Foundation) and CHTEA (Counter Human Trafficking Trust-East Africa), the children were transferred to a safe house and family tracing has begun.
The perpetrators are still walking scot free since in Somalia, there is no comprehensive legal framework to address human trafficking. The law enforcement officers, prosecutorial personnel, and judicial offices remains understaffed, undertrained, and lack capacity to effectively enforce anti-trafficking laws.
COHF and CHTEA through a joint advocacy programme are continuously petitioning the Federal Government of Somalia to sign and ratify international conventions on counter-trafficking in persons. The two organisations have also jointly shepherded several capacity building sittings involving the Federal Government of Somalia to develop training regime for police and judicial officers to help in identifying and intervening on issues of human trafficking.
DHOBLEY –MOGADISHU: Barwaqo, a 17 year Somali girl living with her uncle in the environs of Mogadishu. She played a major role in rescuing a 1.5-year-old babyboy who was being trafficked presumably for the purpose of organ removal. On that morning, she had boarded a bus headed back to Mogadishu from Dhobley, where she had gone to visit her relatives. As passengers were boarding and taking their seats, a middle aged man carrying a baby approached her. The man introduced himself as a relative to the child and deceitfully narrated to Barwaqo how the child’s mother had just died. He requested her to help in transporting the baby to an alleged father who was in Mogadishu. “The man sounded like a very kind person. He came where I sat and requested for my assistance to carry the baby along the journey and gave me a piece of paper with two mobile phone numbers written on it. One was his’ and the other one for someone else whom he referred as the child’s father. He wanted me to contact the person upon arrival in Mogadishu and hand over the baby to him. I never suspected him” she recounts. Generally, there are certain principles that are characteristic to Somalis, these being: respect for elders, trust, generosity and hospitality. The perpetrator took advantage of her naivety as she unsuspectingly agreed to his request and embarked on her journey.
As they were approaching Mogadishu, Barwaqo tried contacting the alleged child’s father whose phone was not going through. She called the person who had given her the baby to inform him about the impending problem. “The man was sounding as if he was a bit worried when I called and told him that I couldn’t reach the alleged child’s father. After a few minutes, he sent me another number through a text message which purportedly, was for the same person.” She narrates. By this time, the bus had arrived at the bus terminus where her uncle was waiting to receive her. After a brief explanation, Barwaqo’s astonished uncle decided to contact the alleged child’s father. The person initially received the call but after realizing that Barwaqo was in the company of another person, he decided to switch off his phone. It was at that moment that Barwaqo and her uncle realized that something was not right. They decided to report the case to the police station where Barwaqo was interrogated and were told that it was a failed human trafficking plan.
Although cases of human trafficking for the purpose of organ sale are not prevalent in Somalia as compared to sex trafficking, there has been an alarming rise of cases in recent times. The sale of human organs has become a lucrative underground business, according to the executive director of Candle of Hope Foundation, a non-governmental organization that is lobbying for the proper laws that prohibit the trade in Somalia/ Somaliland. “The sale of one’s organs is criminal. We have to stop it by all means.” She exclaims.
Candle of Hope Foundation is currently working with CHTEA; also a non-governmental organization in ensuring that Barwaqo and her uncle are receiving the much needed support services in taking care of the baby who is still under their care. COHF and CHTEA are also working in partnership with the relevant government agencies of both Kenya and Somalia and other multinational agencies that work with children so as to ensure proper information is passed and appropriate family tracing is conducted. Through a multi-sectoral approach, a robust and comprehensive approach of screening has been put in place before the hand over the baby to the authorities for repatriation and family reunification is done. COHF and CHTEA has joint working framework which shall monitor the situation to ensure that the child is reunited with his actual family.
*These personal stories have been published with the consent of the victims. The names of the victims have been changed to protect identities.