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Desperate Syrian refugees selling their organs to finance travel to Europe

When they fled their village in northern Syria Mahmoud and his family lost everything.

Islamic State controlled the village and when they discovered the escape they blew up Mahmoud’s house, wiping out his only asset.

(This spiteful punishment for fleeing the caliphate was standard practice.)

Now Mahmoud and his family are languishing in Sanliurfa, just across the border in southern Turkey. Their situation is so desperate he has agreed to sell a kidney.

Mahmoud’s five brothers and sisters have genetic disabilities and the treatment is better in Europe. Credit: ITV News

He has been in touch with the underworld that controls the illegal trade in human organs and is hoping to be paid $10,000.

Black market demand is high. In western Europe or the United States Mahmoud’s kidney will be worth up to $100,000.

On social media used by Syrian refugees in Turkey there are ads and diagrams showing what various organs are worth.

Several thousand Syrians are believed to have resorted to brutal self-sacrifice to survive and to fund the journey to Europe.

Diagrams showing how much organs can sell for are common on social media. Credit: ITV News

There are nearly three million Syrian refugees in Turkey. Most hoped it would be a stepping stone to Europe, but things haven’t turned out that way.

Denied asylum the only alternative is to pay people smugglers and that’s very expensive.

We met a doctor who helps the Syrian community in Istanbul. He said several patients had offered him a lot of money to arrange the sale of their kidneys.

Almost three million refugees are stuck in Turkey, unable to pass through to Europe. Credit: ITV News

In most countries, including Turkey, the sale of human organs is illegal. The argument goes that to legalise it would result in exploitation of the poor. But that’s happening anyway.

Mahmoud’s five brothers and sisters have genetic disabilities and the treatment is better in Europe.

“I can survive with one kidney. They won’t live without the care they can only get in Europe,’ he told me.