Helping to Combat Human Trafficking in Mongolia

Based on the recent reports by The Asian Foundation-Mongolia 

Oyunaa (whose name was changed to protect her identity) is 20 years old and originally from Dornod aimag (province) in eastern Mongolia. Oyunaa now lives with her mother and two siblings in Ulaanbaatar, the capital city.

A trafficking victim referred to the authorities by the anti-trafficking hotline is interviewed by police. In 2007, there was a ten-fold increase in trafficking cases registered with the police as a result of the hotline.

A trafficking victim referred to the authorities by the anti-trafficking hotline is interviewed by police. In 2007, there was a ten-fold increase in trafficking cases registered with the police as a result of the hotline.

In November 2011, Oyunaa agreed to go to Erlian, China with her friend Tuya (also a false name) to work in a karaoke bar. They were told by an acquaintance of Tuya they would have job opportunities as waitresses. Family issues delayed Tuya’s departure to Erlian while Oyunaa, not wanting to delay such a promising opportunity, left to Erlian by train with Tuya’s acquaintance. Once arrived at the Erlian train station, Oyunaa was robbed of her passport and money by a man from Inner Mongolia. Oyunaa was then driven to The Jin Chao brothel area where she was told she must work as a prostitute to pay off the debts she incurred from traveling to Erlian.

Oyunaa was scared and in an unfamiliar place. She had nowhere to go and did not know who to call for help. After a month passed without hearing from her friend, Tuya tried to contact her acquaintance to learn about Oyunaa’s whereabouts. When this failed, Tuya, together with Oyunaa’s family, reached out to the Anti-Trafficking in Persons (Anti-TIP) Hotline 1903 to seek assistance. The Mongolian Gender Equality Center (GEC) a non-profit operating the hotline, and the Police Department of Zamiin Uud, a border city to Erlian, worked together to find Oyunaa. Together, they were finally able to repatriate Oyunna back to Mongolia in January 2012. With their help, Oyunaa was able to get out of the trafficking trap she had fallen into, was able to return home, and be reunited with her family.

Oyunaa's repatriation was made possible through a combination of many individual efforts, but without the US$35,593 grant from Give2Asia recommended by the MYTWO Fund, Oyunaa would have never had the opportunity to come home at all.

Jointly implemented by the Asia Foundation and its local partner GEC, the grant from Give2Asia supported and strengthened Mongolia’s only anti-trafficking hotline service for the past three years. The grant has been pivotal in supporting the hotline’s operations in recent years, allowing the GEC to continue functioning, providing opportunities to trafficking victims like Oyunaa to come home.

The GEC has been operating the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Hotline since November 2006. Since its inception, the nationwide, 24-hour hotline has received 5,600 calls, of which 1,600 calls concerned requests for information, counseling and assistance. The hotline has been able to identify and provide vital first-response assistance to 138 victims of trafficking. The first year Give2Asia funded the project in 2011, the hotline identified 14 victims of human trafficking, including Oyunaa's case. Out of 888 total received calls, 242 of them have been directly related to trafficking and safe migration.

In recent years, human trafficking has become a serious problem in Mongolia. According to the U.S. State Department’s 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report, “Mongolia is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children who are subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor.”

The socio-economic consequences of a transition into a market-oriented economy and the recent stagnation of its mining industry have left Mongolian youth with few opportunities for employment. With the poverty rate in Mongolia around 27.4%, Mongolian youth are tempted to leave their homeland and work abroad in countries such as China, Korea, Japan, or Malaysia. Seeking better opportunities abroad, these women and men are lured into the clutches of traffickers through fraudulent ads in newspapers, TV, social media, as well as acquaintances and even friends or family.  Often, they are deceived and told they are migrating to work in positions such as a hostess, a masseuse, a model, a dancer, or even through false promises of scholarships to study abroad at universities or language training courses.

Aimed at reducing  trafficking and supporting those who have already become victims, the Anti-TIP hotline is increasingly being used as an anti-trafficking tool for Mongolian citizens. "This hotline is a life saving resource for victims of trafficking and a place where the public can report suspected cases to the law enforcement agencies," writes co-authors Jargalan Avkhia, Naran, Munkhbat, and Tirza Theunissen of the  The Asia Foundation.

In addition to assisting Mongolia’s effort to combat human trafficking, the anti-TIP hotline is playing an important role to enforce the government’s Law on Combating Trafficking in Persons, enacted in 2012. With Give2Asia's help in sustaining this invaluable project, the GEC’s Anti-TIP Hotline is protecting vulnerable Mongolian citizens, especially women and girls, from exploitation and trafficking and from violations of their fundamental human rights.

Information in this report was found in a recent Asia Foundation article on Mongolia's fight against human trafficking. To read that article please visit their website.  If you're interested in learning more about the Mongolian GEC, you can head here. For information and resources for trafficking throughout the globe. check out http://en.stoptrafficking.org/.