As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Mongolia, and they exploit victims from Mongolia abroad. Traffickers may also use Mongolia as a transit point to subject foreign individuals to trafficking in Russia and China. Traffickers subject Mongolian men, women, and children to forced labor in China, Kazakhstan, Norway, Sweden, and Turkey, and to sex trafficking in Belgium, Cambodia, China, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea, Sweden, Turkey, and the United States, as well as in Mongolia. Traffickers sometimes use drugs, fraudulent social networking, online job opportunities, or English language programs to lure Mongolian victims into sex trafficking. Most sex trafficking of Mongolian victims from rural and poor economic areas occurs in Ulaanbaatar, provincial centers, and border areas. One recent civil society survey found domestic violence drove the vast majority of Mongolian trafficking victims to seek and accept unsafe employment opportunities that left them vulnerable to traffickers. Traffickers exploit women and girls in sex trafficking in Mongolian massage parlors, illegal brothels, hotels, bars, and karaoke clubs, sometimes through the permissive facilitation of local police. Transgender women are reportedly at higher risk of sex trafficking due to pervasive social stigma barring them from employment in the formal sector. Tourists from Japan and South Korea have reportedly engaged in child sex tourism in Mongolia in prior years; some civil society groups believe this practice persists.
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 Chinese border in Omnogovi Province are often more vulnerable to labor traffickers due to an arrangement under which employers confiscate their passports as collateral for their vehicles. These drivers often wait in truck lines with minimal sleep for weeks or months at a time until they receive permission to cross and make deliveries in China, where customers impose wage deductions for the delays; this loss of income reportedly makes them further vulnerable to labor exploitation. Traffickers are increasingly exploiting women and girls in sex trafficking in these border crossing truck lines, along the coal transport roads connecting mining sites to the Chinese border, at nightlife establishments in mining towns, and at entertainment sites across the border in Inner Mongolia. Mining workers sometimes leave their children at home alone while on extended shift rotations, during which time the children are at elevated risk of sex trafficking. Child forced labor also occurs in connection with artisanal mining.
Traffickers force some children 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. Some families are complicit in exploiting children in sex trafficking and forced labor. In previous years, traffickers have forced Mongolian girls to work as contortionists—often under contractual agreements signed by their parents—primarily in Mongolia and Turkey, and to a lesser extent in Hong Kong and Singapore. Mongolian boys are at high risk of forced labor and sex trafficking under visa regimes that enable them to work indefinitely as horse jockeys and circus performers across the Chinese border, provided they return with a chaperone once a month; this frequent facilitated transit also makes them more vulnerable to trafficking. Traffickers compel women and girls to work in domestic service and engage in commercial sex acts after entering into commercially brokered marriages with men from China and, to a lesser extent, South Korea.
Chinese companies increasingly are hiring Mongolian men and boys to work at agricultural operations for compensation far below minimum wage and under ambiguous immigration status, placing them at high risk of trafficking. Some Chinese micro-lending institutions reportedly retain Mongolians’ passports as a form of collateral, leaving them vulnerable to immigration status-related coercion.
Chinese workers employed in Mongolia are vulnerable to trafficking as contract laborers in construction, manufacturing, agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting, wholesale and retail trade, automobile maintenance, and mining. Some of them experience contract switching when they enter the country, making them especially vulnerable to coercion due to resultant immigration violations. In previous years, North Koreans also experienced forced labor in these industries; they reportedly did not have freedom of movement or choice of employment, and companies allowed them to retain only a small portion of their wages while subjecting them to harsh working and living conditions. Pursuant to a 2017 UN Security Council resolution requiring the repatriation of all North Korean nationals earning income overseas by the end of 2019, subject to limited exceptions, the government reportedly repatriated all North Korean labor migrants covered under the relevant provision. Some Russian and Ukrainian women entering Mongolia through Chinese border crossings for short visits under visa-free regimes may be sex trafficking victims. Observers report corruption among some Mongolian officials facilitates sex trafficking in illicit establishments and impedes the government’s anti-trafficking efforts.