Meeting Natasha: The Scout

An advertisement recruiting egg donors written in a Russian-language newspaper in Cyprus.

An advertisement recruiting egg donors written in a Russian-language newspaper in Cyprus.

Natasha flashes an inviting smile in my direction and bows her head slightly when she shakes my hand. Pretty at thirty-five, she's the first face that patients see when they get off the plane to receive and egg donation. She ferries customers to and from the airport and helps ease their cultural transition from abroad. As a medical coordinator her skills are in demand, but it's not just because of her hospitality. For the less public side of her job she locates and recruits egg donors from wherever she can find them.

In country with an influx of legal and illegal Russian immigrants, she says that many women find themselves in a place where they have few other options to earn cash. "They start relationships with Cypriots who they meet on the Internet. They come and think that they are going to have a good life. Two or three months later they are no longer together and the girls find themselves helpless. She has no place to live, she has no job, and she has no visa to get a job. For Russians now it is hard for them to get papers. She is in trouble. She starts to think where to get money. But she has her health, and she is quite beautiful," she says to me in an upscale café on the Cypriot coast. These are the people who come to sell their eggs.

Natasha agreed to speak with me on three occasions on the condition that I would change her name and not mention the name of the specific clinic that she recruits for.

She tells me about her friend Doylana who came from Russia and was sleeping on friends floors because she had no way to get home. "She visited me and I told her about how she could make money selling her eggs. She gave them and then used the money to buy a plane ticket home."

She says that donors earn between $1100-$1400 for their effort and pain, and while she says that the money can be a motivation, she isn't sure what sort of risk it entails. "You would have to be stupid to do this several times?" she says, "Who knows how dangerous this is down the line?"

Whatever the risks, the money that clinics offer is enough attract an almost endless supply of Eastern European egg sellers. While not every clinic uses scouts, the situation is similar in both Cyprus and Spain. Small amounts of cash are incentive enough to attract only a certain low-income group of donors.

Scott Carney is an investigative journalist, his first book about the international trade in human bodies will appear in Harper Collins in 2011, see his updates at