What an honour! What a pleasure to welcome you here tonight.
It is a particular honour and pleasure for me to be here in Ulan Bator on my first official visit to Mongolia. I have the distinct privilege to welcome you to this reception to open officially the new IOM Mongolia Country Office in Ulan Bator. Let me thank all of you for being present today, as our gathering this evening also marks IOM's 60th Anniversary.
1. Mongolia's commitment to migration issues
First, let me say what an honor it has been to meet with senior Mongolian government officials including the President, Prime Minister, Minister of Home Affairs and Justice and many others this week.
With some 150,000 Mongolians choosing to work abroad; more foreign migrants coming to work in the country's expanding mining sector – 16,000 to date; and rapid rural to urban movements of people – 62% of the country’s population -- migration is becoming a cross-cutting issue of increasing importance to Mongolia.
I would like to congratulate the Government of Mongolia on their commitment to the many issues relating to migration in this country, and the progress that has already been made in this area.
II. The IOM – Mongolia Relationship
Second, my visit to Ulan Bator is an opportunity for me to express appreciation to you, our many partners, for the fruitful friendships and relationships that IOM has enjoyed – and continues to enjoy – with the Government and people of this country.
With a total of 132 Member States, more than 7000 staff in 440 locations worldwide; 2000 on-going migration projects; and a budget of $ 1.5 billion -- IOM is the sole inter-governmental organization whose sole mandate is migration.
Established in 1951, IOM works in close collaboration with government, intergovernmental and non-government partners, to provide practical solutions to migration challenges, and to provide humanitarian assistance to migrants in need, including refugees and internally displaced people.
Mongolia became an IOM Member State in 2008, however, Mongolia-IOM cooperation dates back 10 years. IOM has been supporting Mongolian nationals abroad through its Assisted Voluntary Returns (AVR) programme well before 2008. This AVR scheme assists vulnerable migrants return from third countries and it has helped over 5,000 Mongolians find their way safely back to their home country.
From 2007 to 2010, IOM assisted 358 victims of trafficking in Mongolia - through medical and psychosocial support, legal assistance and livelihoods training.
Last year, IOM launched a broad technical cooperation project on migration governance in Mongolia addressing issues of border management, labour migration and civil registration.
Over 80 representatives from government, academia, and the NGO sector have participated in this 'Capacity Building for Migration Management in Mongolia' Project.
Over the past year, in consultation and in partnership with the Government of Mongolia, IOM has conducted a technical assessment of the country's migration management systems, and we have shared action-orientated recommendations with our government partners.
Based on this assessment, IOM has convened workshops on labour migration and fraudulent document examination. IOM has also organized a Study Tour to the Philippines for senior government officials to exchange information on immigration systems.
Also last year, IOM conducted an assessment on the migratory intentions and movements of those people affected by the Dzud, the extreme winters that have had such a devastating impact on Mongolia.
III. New strengthened level IOM-Mongolia Partnership
As you can see, IOM's previous engagement here has laid a solid foundation on which our new Mongolia Country Office can build and expand its activities.
First, as mentioned, the new Office will continue to implement the 'Capacity Building for Migration Management in Mongolia' project.
In order to prevent irregular migration and associated crimes of human trafficking and people smuggling, IOM recently provided new Edison technology to immigration and border officials to strengthen their ability to identify fraudulent documents.
IOM has just produced a Mongolian-language Passport Examination Procedure manual. One of the world’s leading reference tools in this area, the manual provides guidance on how to better screen and exam identity documents.
Early in the New Year, a Study Tour is being planned for senior Mongolia government officials to visit Australia. The Study Tour will enable both countries to exchange experiences, lessons learned, and best practices on immigration and border management.
In addition to this capacity building project, in coordination with other IOM Offices around the world, the new Office will provide reintegration assistance for recently returned migrants to Mongolia including vocational training, and advice on services available locally.
Third, IOM has recently assumed the role of Cluster Lead on Camp Coordination Management to provide assistance to the displaced in the case of a disaster.
As many of you know, IOM has global responsibility within the Inter-Agency Standing Committee for this area.
IOM will continue to work in close cooperation with the Government of Mongolia and the UN Country Team on developing a joint Contingency Plan, as well as our own camp management plan.
In conclusion, with the opening of the new IOM Mongolia Country Office, I greatly look forward to a new strengthened level of cooperation between IOM and the Government of Mongolia.
We at IOM congratulate the Government of Mongolia on the progress that has already been made on migration issues, and have high hopes for the contribution that our new Office can make, in close collaboration with our government, UN and NGO partners.
Based on conversations with you about Mongolia's unique migration situation, we are here to provide assistance, advice and services where required.