Cases of human trafficking related to surrogacy in European Union

On the occasion of the revision of the Directive Against Trafficking in Human Beings by the rapporteurs RODRÍGUEZ PALOP Eugenia and Björk Malin, we spoke to RODRÍGUEZ PALOP Eugenia’s parliamentary assistant. Our aim is to include surrogacy in this revision as a form of exploitation and as part of European human trafficking. She asked us to provide her with cases of trafficking linked to surrogacy within the EU. Here are the cases we were able to identify.
We see a three-pronged trend in European trafficking: cases of cross-border trafficking (most often to have the surrogate give birth in the client’s country of origin), cases of the sale of children and, finally, cases of the conviction of intermediaries (in this case a website).





This document only deals with cases that have taken place in Europe. It shows how EU citizens have been involved in human trafficking and baby smuggling in the context of surrogacy.

Trafficking for sexual exploitation and trafficking for reproductive exploitation use the same mode of operation, but with an important difference. In reproductive surrogacy, there are many actors: brokers, fertility agencies, clinics, hospitals, lawyers, etc. They are supposed to support the population, but in reality they serve the market. The institution itself serves the market.  In South Africa, a journalist pointed out that citizens don’t have access to basic health care when they are pregnant, but a highly specialized medical sector has developed for surrogacy.

The difference between organized (regulated) surrogacy and ‘unorganized’ surrogacy is very thin: on the one hand, medical procedures and legal arrangements are used to make surrogacy a socially acceptable process, even at the cost of the surrogate mother’s health or life. On the other hand, forced pregnancy, abduction and confinement could be used in the unorganized side of surrogacy which can take place in any country, even where surrogacy is banned. In both cases, the common goal is to have a child at any cost.

An important source of cases of trafficking is the research led by ICASM and ENoMW Migrant women and reproductive exploitation[1] in the surrogacy industry. Joint investigation by ENoMW & ICASM”.





Europol investigation[1] – Greece/Bulgaria/Georgia/Roma : 66 people sentenced on suspicion of organising illegal adoptions, surrogate motherhood and human egg trafficking

Trafficking in women for reproductive exploitation was uncovered in 2019 by a Greek police investigation supported by Europol. Organised criminal group recruiting pregnant and vulnerable Bulgarian women, some with surrogacy contracts, to sell their children in Greece for illegal adoptions for €25,000-€28,000 each.

The payment was for : surrogate mother, administrative costs, hospitalisation costs and payment to the mafia group.

The group is also involved in the trafficking of Bulgarian, Georgian and Roma women for egg collection, which is directly linked to surrogacy.

Group activities: a lawyer, an obstetrician-gynaecologist, employees of clinics in Athens and Thessaloniki, middlemen -> €500,000 laundered.

Europol clearly recognises this as a case of trafficking for criminal activities.


Greece/Eastern European countries[2] : A journalistic investigation confirms that the women willing to become surrogate mothers are of foreign origin (because Greek women refuse to become surrogate mothers, so the supply is lower than the demand in Greece). These women come from Eastern Europe: Bulgaria, Moldova, etc.

Procedure: These women first sell their eggs and are then recruited by doctors to rent a womb.

Some women can be as young as 18 and are deprived of their freedom during pregnancy, either physically or simply because they can talk to other people about surrogacy.

In Greece, there is a strong link between the government and the clinics and doctors who practise surrogacy because it is a lucrative market in a failing economy.


Cyprus/Bulgaria/France[3] : In Bordeaux, France, in 2014, a homosexual couple was sentenced by the Bordeaux Criminal Court to a suspended fine of €7,500 each for “inciting the abandonment of a child” born in France to a surrogate mother through surrogacy and “undermining the civil status of a child”.

In this case, the couple used an agency based in Cyprus and a surrogate mother of Bulgarian origin. The couple welcomed the surrogate for the last two months of her pregnancy.


France/Ukraine[4] : In 2011, two French men were arrested at the Ukrainian-Hungarian border for trying to leave Ukraine illegally with two-month-old twin girls born to a surrogate mother in Ukraine. The two men had hidden the babies under the bed of their caravan in order to cross the border.

They are being tried under Ukrainian law (which only allows surrogacy for heterosexual married couples whose wives are infertile) and face up to five years in prison.



Portugal/Ukraine/United States[5] : Birth of a baby by surrogacy in Lisbon, Portugal, to a Ukrainian surrogate mother on behalf of an American.

The man justified his action by saying that the costs in the United States were too high, so he went through the Feskov agency in Ukraine, which guaranteed him “a fixed price (with) unlimited attempts for a baby of his chosen sex”. His wife decided to divorce him because of this, so he explains that the Ukrainian agency advised him to have the surrogate give birth in Portugal because Ukrainian law only recognises married couples.

There are many such cases, and they are part of the “egg cycle” that Portugal has entered, contributing to a market for children that leads to international trafficking.


Spain/Venezuela[6] : In 2018, the case of a homosexual couple arrested in Barcelona, accused of deceiving a Venezuelan woman for the purpose of surrogacy, was reported.

One of the men, of Venezuelan origin, allegedly convinced the surrogate mother to come to Spain in exchange for money in order to have a child for himself and his partner, although the practice is illegal in Spain. The two men have been charged with ‘attempted child trafficking’ and it was the surrogate mother herself who reported her case to the Spanish police after learning that the practice was illegal.


Spain/Migrant Women[7] : A Spanish association has also heard of immigrant women in Spain who have given birth in the country as part of a surrogacy. This association has also heard of cases of immigrant women in Spain who have been forced to carry pregnancies on behalf of others.

We are in contact with this association because we have carried out studies: « Migrant women and reproductive exploitation in the surrogacy industry – joint investigation by ENoMW & ICASM ».

Out of respect for anonymity, we cannot name this organization.


Italy/Russia[8] : In 2011, an Italian couple entered into a surrogacy in Russia. The child was born in Russia (with no biological link to the sponsors) and the clients applied for filiation in Italy. This was refused by the government, where the practice is illegal, and the child was placed under guardianship and then adopted by another couple. The client couple took their case to the ECHR in 2015, which ruled in their favour, recognising ‘the right of parents to establish a family’. However, in 2017, the ECHR recognised the right of the Italian government not to recognise this parentage in the absence of biological ties. The ECHR recognised that it was a matter of “protecting children from illegal practices, some of which can rightly be described as trafficking in human beings”.

ECHR judgment:{%22itemid%22:[%22001-170867%22]}


Italy/Asylum refugees : We are in contact with an organization called the OMCVI – Associazione delle Donne Capoverdiane in Italia ODV. “This Italian association has been informed of immigrant women in Italy who have given birth in the country as part of a surrogacy. This association has also heard of cases of immigrant women in Italy who have been forced to carry pregnancies on behalf of others”[9].

One of the members had the opportunity to see cases of surrogacy and trafficking, and she told us : “Personally, I work for an international organization dealing with refugees and asylum seekers. I can say that we had cases of surrogacy, but for privacy reasons I cannot divulge this confidential information”.

In fact, women who resort to surrogacy are often in a vulnerable situation, either economically or legally, if they are on trial, which means that they cannot be known ; they are also very afraid to speak out, unlike the clients who often boast about getting their babies.



Feskov Agency (surrogacy agency), which offers to move surrogate mothers in its sales “packaging”.

Picture from the agency’s website[10] :


We can see here a differentiation in prices according to the country of birth of the children. Which involves the forced removal of the surrogate mother.



Article 2[11] of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography : The sale of a child shall mean any act or transaction whereby a child is transferred by one person or group of persons to another person or group of persons for payment or other consideration.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, in his study on surrogate motherhood in his 2018 progress report, stated that surrogate motherhood involves the sale of children when the surrogate mother or a third party receives remuneration or any other benefit in exchange for the transfer of a child.


Article 4[12] of the “Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption“: [requires that] the consent of the mother, if required, shall be given only after the birth of the child.

While in the case of adoption the consent of the mother is required after the birth of the child in order to prevent trafficking and sale of children, this is not the case in the context of the surrogacy. The surrogate mother agrees by contract to hand over the child to the intended parents before she becomes pregnant. All those involved in surrogacy are therefore in breach of the ban on the disposal of a human being and are complicit in this.




In March 2023[13], a surrogate mother from the Aisne region will go on trial along with 5 other people for selling two babies resulting from surrogacy. The first couple was accused by the court of Laon (Aisne) of selling two babies one year apart to two couples between 2016 and 2017. The couple allegedly sold each baby for €15,000.




France/Spain[14] : In November 2022, the Cour des Cassation confirmed the “manifestly illegal” nature of a Spanish website hosted by OVH offering surrogate “services” to French people. The case was brought by the association Juriste pour l’enfance, which claimed that the law on confidence in the digital economy (no. 2004-575 of 21 June 2004) was “manifestly unlawful”.













[11] Article 2 :

[12] Article 4 (2-3) :



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