Mongolia Strengthens Efforts to Prevent and Combat Trafficking in Persons
March 12, 2014
Mongolia is no stranger to the scourge of human trafficking that takes place within Asia and beyond. As a source, transit, and destination for victims of human trafficking, Mongolia remains a Tier 2 country on the U.S. Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, which reported that Mongolia “does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so.”
In January 2012, Mongolia’s Parliament adopted a standalone Law on Combating Trafficking in Persons (Anti-TIP), a milestone in the country’s anti-trafficking efforts, and the culmination of more than three years of intense advocacy by civil society organizations. Two years after the law was adopted, a new law on Victim and Witness Protection passed by Parliament in 2013 has entered into force in January of this year. Under the leadership of the Ministry of Justice, a newly established National Sub-Council on Combating Trafficking in Persons, made up of ministries, government agencies, and civil society organizations coordinates efforts to prevent and combat trafficking.
One of the Sub-Council’s main priorities has been the revision of the National Program on Combating TIP, which outlines the actions needed to implement the anti-TIP law. However, given that the legal framework of the law as it relates to trafficking in persons is relatively new in Mongolia, The Asia Foundation is working with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to train the Sub-Council’s new staff members. Last month, we organized a two-day training for 23 staff members in the capital, Ulaanbaatar, on trafficking in persons and the importance of inter-agency coordination. Participants conducted a mapping of the existing services that their respective agencies provide and also suggested to meet regularly as a group after the training to continue discussion on ways of improving collaboration to provide victim support in a more coordinated and systematic way. The training was preceded by a two-day training on identification and investigation of trafficking cases for investigators from the State Criminal Department and State Investigation Department of the National Police Agency and for prosecutors and lecturers from the Law Enforcement University. This training focused on practical investigation methods, such as how to effectively gather criminal intelligence in relation to trafficking cases.
To support victims of trafficking in accessing legal aid, we partnered with the MoJ last year to establish an interim trafficking in persons legal defense fund for victims. This will eventually become an official fund managed by the MoJ, now that the law on Victim and Witness Protection has entered into effect. Currently seven victims of trafficking for sexual and labor exploitation – most of whom do not have the financial means to hire lawyers or defend themselves – are receiving legal assistance from lawyers specializing in human trafficking cases through the fund. As there are very few lawyers in Mongolia working on a pro-bono basis, victims are effectively inhibited from seeking legal redress. By providing them with access to legal aid, victims will be given a voice to take their cases to court and hopefully will encourage others to report their cases and increase the number of trafficking cases that are prosecuted.
We are also working with civil society organizations to combat trafficking in persons, and for the last three years, with support from the MYTWO Fund via Give2Asia, have supported the Gender Equality Center to keep the nationwide, 24-hour anti-trafficking hotline established in 2006 operational. The 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. To date, the hotline has received over 5,600 calls –138 from trafficking victims – and nearly 1,600 people have called for information on safe migration, labor placement agencies, study abroad agencies, and marriage mediation. Last year, the Foundation, together with the Ministries of Justice and Foreign Affairs, printed and distributed 250,000 passport inserts with information about the hotline and support contacts for border control crossings, immigration authorities, and Mongolian embassies and consulates abroad.
While Mongolia still has a long way to go to preventing and combatting trafficking in persons, especially when it comes to implementation of the existing legal framework, progress is being made and cooperation among stakeholders is increasing. In April, The Asia Foundation is planning to organize a visit by a delegation of Nepali officials to Mongolia, where they will exchange views on some of the common challenges both countries face as well as their experiences and good practices when it comes to developing a holistic and comprehensive trafficking prevention and response system.
The Asia Foundation’s “Supporting Mongolia’s Efforts in Combating TIP” project is funded by the Embassy of Switzerland in Beijing, China, under the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland.
Jargalan Avkhia and Naran Munkhbat are responsible for implementation of the project and can be contacted at [email protected] and [email protected], respectively. Tirza Theunissen is the Foundation’s deputy country representative in Mongolia and can be contacted at [email protected]. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the individual authors and not those of The Asia Foundation.
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