Italy probes human organ trafficking

Italian authorities are investigating allegations that underground clinics in neighbouring Slovenia are removing organs from illegal migrants.

Some people are so desperate to leave Asia, according to police, they're willing to give up a kidney to gain freedom.

But other migrants come to the clinics not realizing their passage requires payment in human organs, and they undergo surgery against their will, investigators say.

Some migrants have also vanished, leading authorities to suspect that more than just kidneys are being removed. Vital body parts, like livers, may also be harvested from unsuspecting men and women and sold on the black market.

Investigators have spent the past five years probing allegations of organ trafficking in the region, and have intercepted telephone calls detailing some of the criminal activity.

In order to get into Italy, migrants are paying between $100,000 and $150,000 each a figure authorities say virtually none of the travellers could afford without selling an organ.

The migrants, mainly from China, are referred to as "special cargo" by the well established network that brings them to the clinics near the Italian border, according to police.

"The selling of human organs is one of the most alarming aspects, one of the most terrifying sides, to illegal immigration and international trafficking in human beings," says Trieste's senior prosecutor.

Meanwhile in Rome on Saturday, tens of thousands of demonstrators marched through the streets to oppose a government crackdown against illegal migration.

In October, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government proposed much harsher penalties for people caught sneaking into the country. Right now they're expelled, but if the bill is passed they could face up to four years in prison. The legislation would also make it easier for authorities to deport illegal migrants.