Mongolia

Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Tier 2 Watch List

MONGOLIA: Tier 2 Watch List

The Government of Mongolia does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated significant efforts during the reporting period by increasing the number of trafficking investigations initiated during the year; using a fund dedicated to the assistance of Mongolian victims overseas to repatriate more victims than in previous years; and adopting a new National Anti-Trafficking Program and work plan aimed at improving prevention and protection efforts. However, the government did not demonstrate increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period. Citing unfamiliarity with the new criminal code, prosecutors dismissed up to 26 in-process trafficking cases upon passage of the new criminal code, rather than reassessing each case to determine how best to continue prosecution. Authorities decreased the number of trafficking prosecutions and did not secure any convictions. The government did not provide funding to trafficking-specific training sessions for key stakeholders and, for the third consecutive year, did not provide funding to NGOs, which continued to provide the majority of victim protection services. New criminal code provisions barred victims from seeking shelter or care until prosecutors initiated cases against their alleged traffickers, further restricting access to Mongolia’s already limited protection services. Authorities used the new criminal code to detain and charge trafficking victims, including underage girls, as part of raids on illicit establishments. Therefore Mongolia was downgraded to Tier 2 Watch List.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR MONGOLIA

Increase efforts to investigate and prosecute all trafficking offenses using Articles 12.3 and 13.1 of the criminal code, and impose adequate sentences on convicted traffickers; amend portions of the legal framework that bar victims from accessing protection services prior to initiation of formal criminal proceedings against their alleged traffickers; cease penalizing trafficking victims for offenses committed as a result of having been subjected to trafficking; continue to develop and implement formal procedures to guide government officials, including police, immigration, and labor authorities, in victim identification and referral to protective services, especially among vulnerable populations; allocate funding to support both government and NGO-run shelters and other forms of victim assistance and protection, including for male victims; strengthen efforts to monitor the working conditions of foreign laborers employed in Mongolia and screen them for labor exploitation indicators, including by increasing funding and resources for labor inspectors; and engage in efforts to reduce demand for commercial sex acts, particularly throughout major transportation hubs and in border and mining areas.

PROSECUTION

The government decreased law enforcement efforts. In July 2017, the government enacted a new criminal code, articles 12.3 and 13.1 of which criminalized labor and sex trafficking. Article 13.1 prescribed penalties of two to eight years imprisonment for adult trafficking and five to 12 years imprisonment for child trafficking; these penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other grave crimes, such as rape. Prior to introduction of the new criminal code, authorities prosecuted trafficking cases under article 124, which criminalized inducing others into and organizing prostitution; this article carried lesser penalties and did not require the element of force, fraud, or coercion.

In 2017, authorities investigated 12 potential trafficking cases (three in 2016) and prosecuted seven defendants (14 in 2016) under article 13.1. The government initiated prosecutions against 31 individuals under article 124, but it was unclear to what extent these cases featured genuine trafficking indicators. Courts did not convict any alleged trafficking offenders under either law (nine in 2016). An additional 12 defendants faced charges under article 12.3, but case details were unavailable. Although the new criminal code corrected the insufficiencies of article 124, prosecutors cited lack of training on its implementation in their decision to fully dismiss as many as 26 pending trafficking cases under article 124, rather than conducting assessments of each case to determine whether the relevant allegations fell under new provisions of the criminal code. However, the prosecutor’s office reportedly began a review of the dismissed cases under the new criminal code at the end of the reporting period. The government did not disaggregate ongoing prosecutions initiated in prior years from new cases in 2017.

Due to the misconception among many government officials that only females could be sex trafficking victims, authorities rarely used articles 13.1, 12.3, 113, or 124 to prosecute cases in which males were the victims, and instead used provisions with less stringent penalties. Unlike in prior years, the government did not fund training courses for law enforcement officers or social workers on trafficking, but it did provide certain forms of in-kind support, including instructors and classroom spaces for training sessions. The National Police Agency (NPA) re-established an anti-trafficking unit, although it was unknown if the unit initiated any trafficking investigations. Authorities did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking offenses.

PROTECTION

The government decreased efforts to protect victims. NGOs continued to provide the vast majority of protection services for victims without support from the government. Two shelters run by the non-governmental Mongolian Gender Equality Center (GEC) were the main victim service providers in the country, but only one could accommodate male victims, and neither was accessible to persons with disabilities. For the third consecutive year, the government did not report funding GEC facilities; observers claimed this constrained them to a reduced operating budget, leading to a dip in service provision. Article 8.1 of the revised criminal procedural code included language that resulted in trafficking victims being unable to access protective services until prosecutors had initiated cases against their alleged traffickers, further obstructing access to protective services. In 2017, the GEC assisted one victim of labor exploitation and 28 victims of sex trafficking (a total of 44 in 2016). All of these victims were female, and approximately one third were minors. It was unclear how many of these cases were referred by police. Of the 29 victims identified by the GEC, 20 opted to report their abuses to the police, but it was unclear if this triggered any investigations or prosecutions.

NPA investigators reported using a trafficking risk assessment checklist containing 11 questions to proactively identify victims among vulnerable populations; however, in implementation, NGOs indicated victim identification and referrals were not systematic, and instead depended largely on the awareness and initiative of individual officers. Metropolitan Police Agency (MPA) and Criminal Police Department (CPD) officers reportedly identified 24 underage girls in prostitution during a series of raids on massage parlors and hotels. However, these authorities continued to fine, arrest, detain, and charge trafficking victims—including children—for crimes and administrative offenses committed as a result of having been subjected to trafficking during the reporting period. In January 2018, police reportedly arrested and charged four underage girls in prostitution for allegedly violating the new Law on Petty Offenses; the case remained pending at the end of the reporting period.

Mongolia adopted a National Anti-Trafficking Program (2017-2021) and work plan aimed at improving prevention and protection efforts, but the government was reportedly unable to dedicate sufficient resources toward implementation of the plan. The NPA’s Victim and Witness Protection Department reported it did not assist any trafficking victims during the 2017 calendar year. Article 15 of the anti-trafficking law stipulated that victims were entitled to financial compensation for “damages to property, dignity, and psychology” perpetrated by their traffickers, but officials and non-government observers agreed inconsistencies between the criminal code and the civil code made this provision impossible to fully implement. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs maintained a fund to assist Mongolian nationals subjected to trafficking abroad. In 2017, authorities used this fund to repatriate seven Mongolian individuals (four in 2016) who were subjected to trafficking in China, but it was unclear if these victims were able to access protection services upon their return. Neither the government nor the GEC identified any foreign victims during the reporting period. Mongolian law did not provide legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries in which they could face retribution or hardship. In compliance with a UN Security Council resolution, the government reportedly repatriated the majority of North Korean labor migrants originally in Mongolia under the auspices of bilateral work agreements; they were not screened for trafficking indicators.

PREVENTION

The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking. In May 2017, the government adopted a new National Anti-Trafficking Program (2017-2021) and corresponding work plan aimed at improving prevention and protection under the management of a National Sub-Council established in June 2017 to provide technical guidance on trafficking prevention and coordinate interagency efforts to implement relevant legislation. However, some observers questioned the level to which the National Sub-Council implemented the program and the government did not provide funding or dedicate other resources for its operations. Authorities continued to work with an international organization to establish an integrated statistical database, and the Ministry of Justice and Home Affairs assisted an international organization to conclude a comprehensive study on the implementation of Mongolia’s anti-trafficking legislation. Officials continued to disseminate a daily trafficking-themed public service announcement (PSA) on social media and television, in addition to distributing PSAs to police stations in all provinces.

The General Authority for Specialized Investigation (GASI), which sat on the National Sub-Council, tracked the number of foreign laborers in Mongolia and the number of Mongolian laborers abroad. GASI also had the authority to inspect the labor contracts of companies recruiting Mongolians for work abroad and to conduct inspections of working conditions in Mongolian formal sector establishments. However, officials and NGOs noted funding and resources for the inspectors were too low to provide comprehensive oversight, and their limited scope within the formal sector left some vulnerabilities unaddressed. The government did not take measures to reduce the demand for forced labor or commercial sex acts. In 2017, the government provided anti-trafficking training for all peacekeepers in advance of their deployment abroad and trained its diplomatic personnel on anti-trafficking laws prior to their assignment abroad.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the last five years, Mongolia is a source and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Mongolian men, women, and children are subjected to forced labor in Turkey, Kazakhstan, Norway, and Sweden and to sex trafficking in South Korea, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Germany, Sweden, Belgium, Turkey, and the United States. Women and girls are subjected to sex trafficking in Mongolian massage parlors, hotels, bars, and karaoke clubs. Mongolian girls employed as contortionists—often under contractual agreements signed by their parents—are subjected to forced labor primarily in Mongolia and Turkey, and to a lesser extent in Hong Kong and Singapore. Women are subjected to domestic servitude or forced prostitution after entering into commercially brokered marriages to Chinese and Korean men, although this trend appears to be decreasing in Korea. Traffickers sometimes use drugs, fraudulent social networking, online job opportunities, or English language programs to lure Mongolian victims into sex trafficking. A majority of Mongolian victims from rural and poor economic areas are subjected to sex trafficking in Ulaanbaatar, provincial centers, and border areas. Tourists from Japan and South Korea have reportedly engaged in child sex tourism in Mongolia in prior years.

The ongoing development of the mining industry in southern Mongolia continues to drive growing internal and international migration, intensifying trafficking vulnerabilities—especially along the China-Mongolia border. Truck drivers transporting coal across the border are often more vulnerable to exploitation due to an arrangement under which the authorities confiscate their passports as collateral for their vehicles. Women and girls are also at risk of being exploited in prostitution by drivers awaiting border crossing, along the coal transport roads connecting mining sites to the Chinese border, and at nightlife establishments in mining towns. Mining workers sometimes leave their children at home while on extended shift rotations, during which time the children are at elevated risk of sexual exploitation. Children are also subjected to forced labor and sexual exploitation in connection with artisanal mining. Some children are forced to beg, steal, or work in other informal sectors of the economy, such as horseracing, herding and animal husbandry, scavenging in garbage dumpsites, and construction, and are sometimes subjected to sex trafficking with familial complicity. North Korean and Chinese workers employed in Mongolia are vulnerable to trafficking as contract laborers in construction, production, agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting, wholesale and retail trade, automobile maintenance, and mining. The remaining North Korean laborers in Mongolia reportedly do not have freedom of movement or choice of employment, and companies allow them to retain only a small portion of their wages while subjecting them to harsh working and living conditions. Chinese workers have reported non-payment of wages. Observers report that corruption among some Mongolian officials facilitates sex trafficking in illicit establishments and impedes the government’s anti-trafficking efforts.