Monday, July 30, 2007

Europe: Bulgarian Mothers Tricked into Selling Babies

Curious about a sentence or two (in the BBC's story on child-trafficking) that alluded to the smuggling of pregnant Bulgarian women into Greece for child-trafficking purposes, I have spent the last few days researching and reading about the practice.

Here is what I've found....

According to BBC and other news reports listed below, the scheme is one that is played out hundreds of times a year.

An impoverished Bulgarian woman (who just happens to be pregnant) is approached and offered a "lucrative" job in Greece. She is told she will be given travel expenses, housing, and most important of all, the opportunity to work and earn good money.

Wanting to better her life, she jumps at the chance.

However, when she arrives in Greece, she finds there is no job.

Instead, the pregnant woman is sequestered--literally locked away... an apartment with other pregnant women. There she stays--fed and housed but unemployed (except for the work her body is doing in gestating her child--the real "work" her "employers" were interested in all along) until the day that she gives birth.

Alone in a country where she knows no one, cut off from communication with home, prevented from leaving the apartment, having no money with which to support herself or with which to return home should she manage to escape, she has no recourse but to stay and wait...until she gives birth to the precious product she is adoptable child.

Meanwhile, arrangements are made to sell the child she is carrying.

Housed, fed, and cared for until she gives birth, the "birthmother's" care status will change with the birth of her child.

If she sells her child to her captors, she will be paid approximately 3,000 Euros and will continue to be cared for and eventually transported back to Bulgaria.

However, if she does not sell the child, then she and her vulnerable newborn will be turned out onto the street to fend for themselves. The reality of the prospect of caring for herself--a newly postpartum mother--and her tiny newborn baby, without local contacts, without a job, not knowing the local language, and with no money with which to buy food or shelter or with which to return home is ridiculous. The woman, of course, knows this.

She is--away from family, home, and community and the support it provides--at her most vulnerable.

She is trapped.

Through trickery and skillfully arranged circumstances, she is all but forced to "voluntarily" relinquish her newborn child.

Almost immediately after birth the child is transferred to the care of his or her previously identified adoptive parents--parents who have paid six times as much money for the child as his/her mother was been paid.

The woman who has produced the child receives about 3,000 Euros, while the organized crime ring which has "facilitated" the "adoption," receives about 20,000 Euros.

According to news sources, hundreds of women thus make the journey from Bulgaria to Greece, each year. Hoping for a better life through gainful employment, they instead find themselves captive and through circumstance forced to sell their own children.

Many of the women thus duped are Roma or gypsies. Typically unemployed, many live in squalid poverty in one of the wealthiest regions in Bulgaria. Their own poverty, a contrast to the wealth around them, serves as an ever-present motivator for them to change their lot in life. They would like to live like this. Those who prey on them know this. They know that their desire to do better in life will help to blind their eyes to dangers they would ordinarily see.

Those who prey on these women also know that there are equally desperate persons in Greece. With one of the lowest fertility rates in the world, the demand for babies in Greece is very high. The number of babies legally available for adoption, however, is very tiny.

Experts estimate [that there] are currently 500 couple waiting to adopt [the] just 54 babies available across the country.

Combine the high demand and the serious dearth of legally adoptable babies, with a highly complicated, long, and bureaucratic adoptive process that may easily take up to five years to complete, and many couples decide either that the process may never work for them or else that is simply too long and too complicated.

Frustrated infertile couples get tired of waiting--waiting for the child that realistically may never come to them. Having the money to pay for a child and the burning desire to parent, they turn to the black market.

Where there are copious amounts of available money, high demand for a particular product, and little legal hope for filling that demand, criminals and organized crime has the opportunity to step in to fill demand and take make money.

Getting this trade under control has proved difficult.
[In 2006,] more than 20 suspected baby-traffickers and prospective buyers had been arrested in a series of police raids across Greece...

--news report in The Independent (as below)

This number is multiplied by the 33 people that the Bulgarian government has arrested on similar charges in the last 3 years since baby-trafficking was outlawed there. However, police believe these 33 people represent "only the tip of the iceberg." Eight separate cases of child-trafficking for adoption had been investigated in the first seven months of 2006 alone.

In its most recent report, Interpol says that Bulgarians have become the ringleaders of the European baby trading circuit and are being investigated in Greece, Italy, France, and Portugal.

But demand is increasing and the gangs are becoming wealthier, according to Greek police. 'The phenomenon is well organised, "said Dimitris Tsiodras of Athens police's organised crime unit. 'The gangs consist of five, 10, or even more people. You need such numbers in order to locate pregnant women [in Bulgaria], transport them through countries such as Austria and Italy to Greece, take them to hospital to deliver the baby and find a place for them to stay until the buyer is found." Most of the buyers--usually childless couples--are found in advance, and the baby is given away as soon as the mother leaves the hospital."

--news report in The Independent (as below)
As for the gullibility of the Bulgarian women...
It is not hard to see why women such as [the woman in the article] are prepared to follow anyone offering her a ticket out of this poverty. 'I was told that I would earn up to 45 Euros a day if I took the job in Greece. What do you think I should have done?'

Bulgarian mothers tricked into selling babies, The Independent, July 18, 2006

Criminal Groups From Bulgaria Among Leader in Europe's Child Trafficking Industry, Sofia Echo, 19 Jul 2006

Bulgarian babies for sale, BBC News, July 18, 2006

Watch a BBC Video Report on this issue: Pregnant Women Smuggled into Europe, BBC News, 18 July 2006

1 comment:

  1. I just found your blog today. I'm adding you to my blogroll. Our old adoption agency sent us to Far East Siberia last year to adopt a little girl. Turns out it was baby trafficking. Our little girl from Russia never made it home.

    We paid for the whole adoption plus all fees (almost 40K), we signed the adoption decree in Russia (I photographed it), and we waited 8 months to bring our little girl home.

    yuck yuck yuck.

    I finally got a russian lawyer and contacted the Russian authorities myself after about 4 months of waiting, seeing as my agency was only full of stupid stories and excuses. In the meantime, they allegedly started an adoption for us in Moscow as well. So this would be two adoptions they were doing for us.

    The Russian authorities told us that our little girl we adopted in Far East Siberia was never available for adoption. She lives with a relative in an institution.

    Also, our dossier was never in Russia. The russian authorities were never notified of even a letter from any adoption agency requesting that we want to adopt.

    Bleck bleck bleck. Shame on our old agency.

    So we decided to take them to court, report them to all licensing agencies, and report them to the FBI. Our court date is in a few days so we can sue them & get all our money back. The licensing agencies have been auditing them (he he he he he he), and the FBI is prosecuting them. I've been on every yahoo group I can think of blasting this agency & several families have come forward. I'm testifying for the FBI when this goes to trial. The FBI wants the owners & workers of this agency to spend some time in jail.

    Hooray hooray hooray!

    Nothing though will serve as justice though for us losing our daughter. We had her in our arms for days. She will live in our hearts forever.

    Please visit my blog & see entries under the categor of ZsaZsa to see the story.

    Thank you for having your blog out there in the public. After our court hearing & FBI trial, we will go public with our story & blast our old agency. They deserve at least that.......