According to the U.S. Department of State’s most recent “Trafficking in Persons Report,” as many as 27 million men, women, and children are being trafficked worldwide. The 2013 report, which places countries onto one of three tiers based on their anti-human trafficking efforts, again placed a number of Asian countries as Tier 2, including Mongolia and Nepal, which despite efforts, still do not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.
While vastly different in terms of geographical location, population, and development challenges, Mongolia and Nepal have both long been source, transit, and destination countries for trafficked persons. The Asia Foundation organized an exchange visit this week for five Nepali government officials from the Ministry of Women, Children, and Social Welfare (MoWCSW); Ministry of Law Justice, Constituent Assembly, and Parliamentary Affairs; Ministry of Home Affairs, and the Department of Foreign Employment of the Ministry of Labor and Employment to visit Mongolia to share their experiences and lessons learned in combating trafficking in persons.
On the first day, the Nepali delegation met with the State Secretary of the Ministry of Justice, Ms. Bayartsetseg. She emphasized that while the magnitude of the trafficking problem in Mongolia, with a population of 2.9 million is very different from Nepal, with a population of nearly 28 million, both countries face similar challenges. Both are landlocked and surrounded by powerful neighbors, and have long-stretching borders located in remote, hard to reach areas, which makes it difficult to monitor all cross-border movements. In both countries, there is an increasing trend of labor trafficking, especially in Nepal, where according to official figures an estimated 350,000-400,000 people migrate abroad every year for foreign employment but in reality this number is likely to be much higher. In many cases, Nepali workers who have been lured with promises of lucrative jobs, end up instead being exploited in the destination countries. Internal trafficking from the countryside to the capitals of both countries is also a troubling trend.
Both countries have adopted anti-trafficking legislation: In 2012, Mongolia passed its Law on Combating Trafficking in Persons, and in 2007, Nepal passed its Human Trafficking and Transportation (Control) Act, though some sections are currently under review. However, while in Mongolia, the Ministry of Justice is the main agency responsible for the implementation of the law, in Nepal this responsibility lies with the Ministry of Women, Children, and Social Welfare (MoWCSW). Both countries also have a national coordination mechanism amongst the related government agencies. Mongolia has a national sub-council to combat trafficking in persons consisting of government agencies and civil society organizations chaired by the Ministry of Justice in Mongolia, whereas in Nepal there is the National Committee for Controlling Human Trafficking that consists of government agencies and NGO representatives, chaired by the MoWCSW in Nepal. At the end of the meeting, the delegation presented the state secretary with an official copy of Nepal’s National Plan of Action, which has been used by the Sub-Council in Mongolia to inform the development of its new five-year National Program of Action to Combat TIP. A report on the government initiatives to lead anti-trafficking efforts by Government of Nepal was also shared.
The delegation also met with the State Secretary of the Ministry of Population, Development, and Social Protection (MoPDSP), Ms. Otgonjargal, to learn more about the services being provided to victims of trafficking in Mongolia. The Ministry is working with NGOs to provide victims with services including legal, medical, psychosocial, and child support services through two dedicated shelters for victims of trafficking. In Nepal, eight of such rehabilitation shelters exist which are run by NGOs with government support. The delegation subsequently meet both a government-run shelter established by the Ministry of Justice as well as a shelter run by an NGO.
The delegation also visited the newly established Citizenship and Migration General Authority of Mongolia (CMGAM). On December 26, 2013, the Mongolian Parliament approved the bill on Border Check Points that became effective on April 1, 2014. Under the new law, certain functions of the Border Ports Division, which was previously administered by the General Authority for Border Protection, have been transferred and brought under the administration of the Mongolian Migration Office which has been renamed as the CMGAM, which functions under the auspices of the Ministry of Justice. The former Mongolia Immigration Agency was only in charge of foreign nationals` issues in Mongolia, now the CMGAM is obliged to be responsible for both Mongolian nationals and foreigners. The delegation was given a tour of the airport to show the facilities and the operations of the CMGA in identifying victims of trafficking. Other meetings were held with the Consular Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the General Police Agency, and Ministry of Labor.
During a reception for the delegation, hosted by the Ministry of Justice and the MoPDS and attended by State Secretary Bayartsetseg, Secretary of the MoWCSW of Nepal, Dinesh Hari Adhikari, remarked upon the hospitality received from the Mongolian counterparts and the importance of joining forces to combat trafficking globally. He expressed his wish that both countries would further deepen relationships and his hope for the state secretary to visit Nepal in the near future.
The study tour was organized under the Combating Trafficking in Persons (C-TIP) Program implemented by The Asia Foundation in Nepal and funded by USAID. In Mongolia, The Asia Foundation is implementing the Supporting Mongolia’s Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons Project funded by the Swiss Embassy in Beijing.
Shareen Tuladhar is The Asia Foundation’s program officer in Nepal working on CTIP and Tirza Theunissen is the Foundation’s deputy country representative in Mongolia. They can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, respectively. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the individual authors and not those of The Asia Foundation.