Every day, millions of people are forced to flee their home countries because of persecution, war, or violence. But Mongolians are fleeing their home country because of poor opportunities for prosperity. Many husbands, wives, mothers, and fathers are leaving their spouses and children to keep their nose to the grindstone.
The number of Mongolians who travel abroad reached 1.04 million people in June 2016, rose to nearly 1.23 million people in July, and reached 1.46 million people in August. This index saw a 40 percent increase in six months compared to data from previous years, noted D.Otgonjav, a specialist at the General Department for Citizenship and Migration of Mongolia.
THE EARLY BIRD CATCHES THE WORM
The Civil Registration Center in Zuun Ail is greeted by a long queue of passport applicants at the entrance every morning. Despite being well aware that the center opens at 9:00 a.m., everyone insist on arriving early, pushing people to come at around 4:00 a.m. to secure a spot at the front of the line.
“Today (October 3), the first person arrived at exactly 4:00 a.m., and by 8:30 a.m., more than 200 people had been waiting in the line. Some 600 people applied for a passport last Friday, and on Thursday we provided service to approximately 700 people,” said a staff member at the Civil Registration Center in Zuun Ail.
The number of people applying for new passports is increasing as the years pass. The National Registration and Statistical Office (NRSO) reported that over 120,000 people had applied for a passport, but within the first half of this year, 130,000 passport applications were submitted. The majority of these people have been identified as young people between the ages of 18 and 40, prime years to cultivate a passion for a career.
NOT EVEN A PH.D. CAN HELP YOU EARN 10 MILLION MNT A MONTH
There are multiple reasons why a growing number of Mongolians are going abroad, such as the most obvious reasons: to travel or study. Traveling is always fun, with plenty of adventures, challenges, and encounters which can help boost your confidence, independence, and cultural sensitivity. Gaining a world-class education, enriching your CV with an impressive educational background, and brushing up on your language skills are definitely enticing enough for any student to consider packing their bags and heading to the airport. However, these aren’t the only reasons why people are choosing to go abroad. While some travel overseas voluntarily, others see international travel as their last resort to treat an illness, to earn enough money for tuition, or to support their family.
The UB Post asked a couple of university students who have applied for passports why they want to go overseas.
Two students majoring in Japanese studies at the National University of Mongolia (NUM) said they were accepted for an exchange student program in Japan and needed a passport to travel. One of them said, “Studying in Japan will help me improve my language skills and meet new people, as well as gain insight on globalization.”
A third-year student says he took a one-year leave of absence from school because he couldn’t afford tuition. He hopes to earn money for tuition by working in the Republic of Korea for three months. To get a working visa, he needs a passport, and so he’s applied for a passport for the first time.
“I actually worked for a construction company during the summer to earn my tuition, but the company went under because it couldn’t provide salaries for workers. After that, I tried harvesting and selling nuts, but it wasn’t nearly enough to cover my tuition. Now, I’m trying to go to the Republic of Korea and work for three months,” he explained.
Students aren’t the only ones suffering from economic difficulties. The unstable economy is driving highly-educated, and even elderly people, to seek hard labor jobs in foreign lands.
“I could earn more if I do various jobs abroad instead of working at a dental clinic in Mongolia,” said a Mongolian dentist who has two children, ages one and five.
A 50-year-old woman explained that she needed to work abroad because there were no other means to make a living in Mongolia. “It’s way better to work abroad than to work in Mongolia. It’s hard to get more than the minimum wage in Mongolia. Not everyone gets around one million MNT a month. I get 300,000 MNT to 700,000 MNT since I work at a factory.”
50,000 MONGOLIANS APPLY FOR KOREAN VISAS EACH YEAR
The majority of Mongolians traveling abroad go to the Republic of Korea, according to Ya.Ariunbold, the Consulate General of Mongolia at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“Each year, 50,000 Mongolians apply for a visa to the Republic of Korea at the Korean Embassy in Mongolia. According to their Consular Department in charge of visa issues, visas were issued to 95 percent of them,” Ya.Ariunbold said.
In 2014, eight Mongolian nationals had been illegally residing in the Republic of Korea. As of August 2016, 368 Mongolians were identified to have illegally stayed past their visa expiration dates. This suggest that Mongolians prefer living and working in hiding abroad rather than returning to Mongolia.
Consulate General Ya.Ariunbold added that Mongolians make up the majority of people who overstay their visas when traveling to the Republic of Korea, but The UB Post could not verify this information. According to Ya.Ariunbold, although 50,000 Mongolians apply for Korean visas every year, there are 650,000 Chinese applicants. Although there are 13 times more Chinese people traveling to Korea, more Mongolians overstay their visas.
A migration crisis is returning to Mongolia, just like one that occurred several years ago. Back then, thousands of people waited for days in a long queue outside of Central Stadium to travel abroad, mainly to the Republic of Korea. This flow of Mongolians seeking new lives abroad would be well-supported if they could gain a good education and use it for innovating and improving Mongolia, instead of illegally residing in a foreign country and degrading the country’s reputation. Considering Mongolia’s current economic situation and other factors, these people can’t be blamed for searching for higher-paying jobs, a better education, and a better living environment.
Personally, I would encourage people to go to another country where their talents and skills are more greatly valued. However, this could lead to serious issues concerning national security if an overwhelming number of Mongolians continue to desert their homeland. This might be slightly exaggerated, but it would make Mongolia vulnerable to foreign invasion, not to mention risk the extinction of the Mongolian race, which is very possible considering Mongolia has only three million people.
This matter definitely needs government attention. Both the Cabinet and Parliament need to take progressive and effective measures to stabilize the economy, improve living and working conditions for locals, create a favorable legal environment for taxes and wages, and enhance the education system. This would be the best solution for reducing the number of Mongolians living abroad.