We talked to B.Enkhtsetseg, official of a program against human trafficking at the Center for Human Rights and Development (CHRD), about human trafficking issues in Mongolia, earlier this week. Our interview largely focused on labor exploitation – one of the identified forms of human trafficking – which reportedly makes up most of the cases related to human trafficking in Mongolia but still remains outside of the public’s knowledge.
Can you talk about the severity of human trafficking in Mongolia?
Mongolia acts as both a transit and source country, as well as a destination point for trafficking victims. However, I want to talk more about domestic human trafficking, especially labor exploitation in Mongolia, whose victims are mostly found in road and construction projects, or in remote areas. For instance, the Division Against Human Trafficking at the State Investigation Authority solved a case where an orphan child was forced to herd livestock for one family for two years.
We’ve heard that there has been a growth in labor exploitation, more so than sex trafficking. The organizations involved, especially the police, are getting better at recording these cases, which makes it seem like the crime rates have gone up. Do you believe that human trafficking is getting worse in Mongolia, or are the police just getting better at recording these incidents?
The first human trafficking case in Mongolia was reported in 2000. Though human trafficking was included in the Criminal Code of Mongolia, it was still lacking much. Finally, the code was revised in accordance with the Palermo Protocols after Mongolia joined them in 2008.
Also, there are several major organizations in Mongolia that are working against human trafficking, including the CHRD, which was founded in 1998. We have been holding training for law enforcement investigation skills on human trafficking cases. Police officers have improved a lot in the past 14 years, and also the laws have been amended. A specific law against human trafficking was approved in Mongolia in 2012 and I believe that all these helped police competency in recording the cases.
The public has also learned about human trafficking in the past few years and started contacting the police as victims. Police departments established divisions against human trafficking with the support of the government as well. Many factors have influenced the increase in recorded cases.
The overall situation of human trafficking has changed a lot in Mongolia. Which areas still need work in order to improve? For example, the number of labor exploitation cases have been increasing lately. What do you think can be done to bring down the number of these cases?
Law enforcement organizations need to track down and investigate labor exploitation cases more. The case of the orphan child was actually the only one the police initiated a criminal case for. The courts, police and other law enforcement organizations still need to learn more and acquire a proper education and practical experience in labor exploitation cases.
One reason that labor exploitation cases are not being solved is that those citizens who have been doing forced labor for a small amount of pay, or without pay while either captured or free, can’t show law enforcement organizations enough evidence that they didn’t have any other options and were forced to work. Enforcement of the Human Trafficking Law has been quite poor as well.
In 2012 and 2013, the CHRD submitted five labor exploitation cases to the police and they investigated two of the cases, but refused to further initiate a criminal case on them.
We are hoping that the revised draft of the Criminal Code of Mongolia will enable a better legal framework for labor exploitation if it is approved by Parliament.
Which countries are Mongolians trafficked to, and from which countries is Mongolia receiving trafficked people?
People from the Philippines and Vietnam are coming to Mongolia to work as maids, and several of them have become victims of labor exploitation here, but we haven’t worked closely on those cases. As for Mongolians, we have received labor exploitation reports where Mongolians went to Kazakhstan, Turkey and South Korea to work and ended up working while detained without a pay. But these cases have been dealt with in accordance with fraud laws, as certain people deceived those Mongolians and charged them for helping them find jobs in those countries.
Why are labor exploitation cases so difficult to prove?
Mongolians think the only identified forms of human trafficking are sex work or organ trafficking, so they do not realize that they are actual victims of another form of human trafficking - labor exploitation. That is why the number of labor exploitation reports is still low.
They believe that their work of a week or a month without pay is not a big deal and just think it is due to rising demand for jobs.
As I’ve mentioned before, the police don’t know how to investigate and prove labor exploitation cases. The Human Security Policy Studies Center, Caritas Mongolia of Caritas Czech Republic and the European Union jointly established a network in Mongolia, through their own funding, and are enrolling law enforcement officials in training for improving their skills in investigating, detecting and solving labor exploitation cases.
Mongolia is only in the early stages of working on labor exploitation cases, and these are typically seen as civil violations rather than criminal cases.
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