The Bulgarian baby trade

Scams in eastern Europe promise pregnant women jobs, then sell their babies on the black market instead.

Published July 20, 2006 12:00PM (EDT)

A wrenchingly sad Belfast Telegraph story this week reports on yet another dark, depressing dimension of human trafficking: criminal rings that traffic pregnant women in order to sell their babies on the black market. Scams prey on poor women in eastern Europe by promising them jobs, usually in western European countries. The Telegraph reports, "Interpol says that Bulgarians have become the ringleaders of the European baby trading circuit and are being investigated in Greece, Italy, France and Portugal."

Many of the victims are from the Roma community. The Telegraph piece profiles one such mother-to-be, 23-year-old Yanna Dobrena Yordanova, who was rescued from a trafficking operation in Greece.

"Ms. Yordanova lives in a suburb of Burgas known locally as 'the ghetto,' home to more than 3,000 members of the Roma community, most of whom are unemployed and impoverished. Here, in a dilapidated bedsit, she is only days from giving birth and will soon have three children to look after. She lives off money from the state -- and even that adds up to less than the  a day that the World Bank estimates Bulgaria's Roma live on.


"'I was told that I would earn up to % a day if I took the job in Greece. What do you think I should have done? I decided to leave the children with a neighbour and go earn some money. But I was lied to,'" Yordanova told the Telegraph.

Traffickers have been selling babies, usually to childless couples, for as much as 20,000 euros (or about $25,000) in a truly evil exploitation of the increasing demand for adoption as fertility rates decline across western Europe. "Bulgaria has charged at least 33 people in the past three years with coercing women into selling their babies," the Telegraph reports, but since baby trafficking has only been illegal in the country for about two years, and the maximum penalty is just two years in prison, the crackdown is off to a slow start.

As Broadsheet's Sarah Karnasiewicz has indicated before, it's important to note that though most coverage of human trafficking focuses on the sex trade, trafficking takes many nasty guises. For information on helping prevent trafficking in Bulgaria and around the world, go here, here and/or here.

By Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

MORE FROM Page Rockwell

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Broadsheet Love And Sex