Ulan Bator - An International gang of human traffickers is in the process of kidnapping someone I know in Ulaanbaatar along with seven other Mongolians.
They presumably will be engaged in forced labor and exploited in the sex industry.
This article will be updated here from time to time as the story progresses.
Erdene* (Mongolian: Jewel) has been doing research for our organization in the past two years. She has done an excellent job. Erdene is a honest, intelligent, hard working, and good looking Mongolian woman in her thirties.
Erdene lives with her husband and her seven year old boy in the ger districts of Ulaanbaatar. She was raised in the countryside by a caring herder family. After they lost their complete herd several years ago during an extreme cold winter (known locally as Dzud) they moved to the city in order to survive.
Erdene learned dancing, plays the violin, and graduated college a few years ago. She speaks several foreign languages, which made her an excellent candidate for jobs in the tourist industry.
Update May 2010
In spite of the risks involved Erdene was determined to go to Europe to improve her family situation. In an online chat discussion, she explained: "i read your article when you write about me as girl named erdene, i am now smiling because i am lucky woman, it was possible they sell me, cause i dont know about human traffick. after you said it, i changed my flight 2 times and come here my self". Erdene managed to buy back her passport for 3,500EUR with the working visa in it, the traffickers arranged for her. All the others in her group have left Mongolia with the traffickers, we do not have any further information about them.
Erdene is now in one of the EU countries desperately looking for a decent job. In the latest chat she says: "language is big problem here, i watching tv to learn, help me find a job, I have work visa"
Erdene has a dream.
Erdene wants to live in a house with running water and not have to carry water from the pumping station down the road. She dreams of a brick home with toilets, instead of the outhouse near her family ger. She aspires to live in a neighborhood with paved roads, replacing the dusty dirt road in summer and muddy road during the winter months. About 60% of Ulaanbaatar citizens live in similar conditions in the ger districts surrounding the city.
Erdene has a dream for her seven year old son, named Batbaatar (Mongolian: strong hero). Erdene wants a better education for her son. Education that is possible only for boys living close to the city center or overseas. Erdene wants her son to contribute to the future of Mongolia.
The relatively good paying jobs she had, contributed only very little in fulfilling her dreams, about 40% of her salary went to buy coal for heating her family ger during the long winter nights when temperatures come down to -30c.
The kidnapping process
Given her condition it is obvious she was a prime target and showed interest when a head hunter approached her. Human traffickers are extremely nice people. They are very sophisticated in their methods. They have experience in luring innocent people into their trap. They promised her a good job with high salary in a European country. They promised her that after she settles down, she can bring her son to join her in Europe where he will enjoy a better education.
Human traffickers move people from country to country like merchandise and sell heads for $1,000 to $5,000 each.
They sell women for prostitution, men for illegal mining operations under hazardous conditions and children for field work. Wherever there is a demand they will supply.
The source of human merchandise is in shanty towns around the world. Ulaanbaatar is an excellent source for head hunters. Mongolians living in the ger districts are poor but educated, naïve dreamers of a better life, good looking and healthy.
Erdene (Jewel) is a perfect candidate who can be sold for as much as $5,000.
Her recruiter instructed her last week, to visit a neighboring country to apply for a visa at a specific European embassy. One of the employees in that embassy was bribed by the human traffickers, so they supply visa's without asking questions.
When she was asked to show her passport to her recruiter who escorted her to the embassy, he confiscated her passport, saying that he would return it only after she pays 3,500 EUR for arranging the visa for her.
They never told her what job, or what country she is going to. They said they will tell her were to fly to. Last night Erdene was told where to purchase the flight ticket and what her destination would be. When she went to pick up the ticket she was told that the price had just gone up and she would have to bring more money.
The human traffickers that lured Erdene have no office or website, they told her not to tell anyone anything.
I tried to explain to Erdene what all this means. I asked her to have a look at two Mongolian websites that explain the issue and have an emergency help line, stoptrafficking.mn in Mongolian, and humantrafficking.mn mixed English and Mongolian.
Erdene is sure I am wrong about these nice people. Erdene is confident she has full control over the situation, and that no one can force her to work in the sex industry. She asked me not to do anything that might prevent her from fulfilling her dreams.
I learned all about this, because Erdene asked me if I can give her a loan for several months, to cover the expenses. She said she was offered a lucrative job, where she will earn a high salary and be able to repay the loan in a short time. I asked her several questions, and soon realized she is unknowingly being kidnapped by a criminal organization. I refused to lend her money for this cause, by doing so I would be taking part in a criminal act.
I emailed some of my friends that know her. One of her past employers wrote back that Erdene is "very active, ambitious and has a strong will to be wealthy" and this, in her opinion, prevents Erdene from seeing all the blinking alert signals.
Increase in human trafficking
Mongolia is undergoing dramatic social, economic, and political changes since the early
1990s. One of the basic rights Mongolians enjoy today is freedom of travel. Over the past ten years, the number of Mongolians studying or working abroad has grown from negligible numbers to an estimated 200,000 people. There has similarly been an increase in domestic migration from rural to urban areas. While more open borders and greater freedom to travel have opened up new opportunities these changes have also made it easier for traffickers to prey on Mongolians looking for a better life through employment abroad—particularly young women.
In a research conducted by the "Center for Human Rights and Development" titled Combating Human Trafficking in Mongolia, one of the main finding was:
In all of the trafficking cases that CHRD documented, the women were recruited and
transported abroad for the purpose of coerced prostitution, after being deceived
about the nature and/or conditions of the “employment” awaiting them. Most are
required to sign contracts, but the women are not told about the debts they will
“owe,” nor are they aware of the dangers they may face.
Mongolia has taken measures in combating human trafficking. The legal framework is undergoing changes to enable prosecution of human traffickers. Offenders may be charged up to 15 years imprisonment. A few Mongolian traffickers were brought to trial for trafficking girls for prostitution in Macao, China and South Korea. In some of the cases the charges were dropped due to lack of evidence and refusal of victims to testify. In 5 cases traffickers were convicted.
What can we do?
I have contacted several NGO's and Embassies in Ulaanbaatar, but had no serious reply yet.
If you have any suggestions, ideas, insight, please comment to this story. Your comments may help in saving a few souls.
By: Dan ToMongolia@Gmail.com
* Names and some personal identity details have been altered to protect the victims.