Police raid fertility clinic said to have forced 169 women into surrogacy

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A fertility clinic in Greece was raided by police last week after a months-long investigation into human trafficking, causing international repercussions.

The Mediterranean Fertility Institute, located on the island of Crete, was raided by Greek authorities following an investigation that began in December 2022 into claims of human trafficking and fraud. According to The Daily Mail, Greek police reportedly say the fertility clinic was a criminal organization that exploited women and defrauded the intended parents. Neos Kosmos reported that a 73-year-old gynecologist orchestrated the trafficking scheme.

Exploiting women

Low-income women, or women in difficult financial situations, were targeted by so-called “brokers” in countries like Ukraine, Romania, Moldova, Georgia, and Albania. After being lured to Greece, they were kept in one of numerous safe houses, under “controlled conditions,” until the surrogacy process was complete.

In total, Greek police allege that 169 vulnerable women were forced to be both egg donors and surrogates, meaning they may actually be the biological mothers of the children involved.

Surrogacy is known to exploit impoverished women, with Ukraine in particular becoming a hotspot for foreigners seeking surrogates. Often, the women live in poverty, while the buyers are wealthy. Ukraine, for example, is one of the poorest countries in the world. Many of the other countries used by the fertility clinic, like Romania, Moldova, and Albania, are known to be impoverished as well.

Allegations of fraud

Meanwhile, the intended parents were allegedly also defrauded, charged up to $200,000 for a child. The staff at the fertility clinic were said to have engaged in fraudulent embryo transfers and facilitated illegal adoptions.

READ: Man admits to killing girlfriend and preborn daughter… because he wanted a boy

Australia is one of the countries heavily impacted by the scandal. Sky News reported that there are currently eight newborns being held by the Greek government in a high-security wing of a local hospital. Yet the situation could quickly get worse; there are surrogates who are still allegedly pregnant and due soon.

Sam Everingham, the global director of Growing Families, a surrogacy-support organization, explained, “They would have been doing 300 cases a year. It would be approximately 150 Australians affected who either have embryos there or births on the way.”

Seemingly due to the fraudulent embryo transfers, the intended parents will need to undergo a DNA test to confirm that the baby in question is biologically theirs. In the meantime, no one is being given access to the children.

“I refuse to call it a Greek tragedy, but it is,” Roman Deauna, an immigration lawyer, said. “To be denied access to your baby, can you imagine the cruelty of it?”

Alison Duncan, the Australian Ambassador to Greece, has personally written several letters to the Greek government demanding that Australian-based intended parents be given visitation rights with the infants.

Every staff member in the facility has been arrested — eight in total. They have been charged with human trafficking, mediation in the adoption of minors, purchase and sale of genetic material or fertilized eggs, falsification of medical file data for the purpose of selling genetic material, forgery exceeding €120,000, false medical certificates intended for judicial use, disruption of family order (including fictitious marriages), and fraud combined with simple bodily harm.

The Chania-based Unit of Medically Assisted Reproduction and Bank of Cryogenic Maintenance is allegedly involved in the scandal as well, and it is believed that this criminal network may have been operating for a decade in multiple regions.

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