The National Referral Mechanism (NRM)

The NRM is a system for identifying victims of human trafficking or modern slavery and ensuring they receive the appropriate support. Victim consent has to be given (for adults), in order for them to be entered into the process.

The NRM is also the way the MSHTU (Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Unit) collects data about victims. This information contributes to building a clearer picture about the scope of human trafficking and modern slavery in the UK.

The NRM was introduced in 2009 to meet the UK’s obligations under the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. From 31st July 2015 the NRM was extended to all victims of modern slavery in England and Wales following the implementation of the Modern Slavery Act 2015.

The NRM provides a minimum 45-day reflection and recovery period for victims of human trafficking or modern slavery.

An initial referral is made by a ‘First Responder’ organisation. These include: Local Authorities, Police Forces, the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, the Salvation Army, UK Border Force, The National Crime Agency, Home Office Visas and Immigration, and NGOs such as Barnardos, Migrant Help, Unseen and the Refugee Council:

All completed NRM forms are sent to the MSHTU, who will then decide which ‘Competent Authority’ will deal with the case. (You can download the NRM forms here)

The two Competent Authorities are:

The Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Unit (MSHTU), which deals with referrals from the police, local authorities, and NGOs

Home Office Visas and Immigration (UKVI), which deals with referrals identified as part of the immigration process, for example where trafficking or modern slavery may be an issue as part of an asylum claim.

Once a referral has been made, trained decision makers in the Competent Authority will assess and make a decision on whether an individual is a victim of trafficking or modern slavery.

NRM Pilots

An NRM Review (2014) recommended an overhaul to the way victims are supported and identified. In response to the review, changes to the NRM have been piloted in the West Yorkshire police force area, and in the South West (Avon and Somerset, Devon and Cornwall, Dorset, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire police force areas) from August 2015 to December 2016.

The pilot intended to:

1. Improve identification of victims, so an increased number of victims are identified;

2. Improve the referral process, so more potential victims access the process;

3. Improve the decisions made, especially at the point of conclusive grounds decision.

The Pilot is currently under review by the Modern Slavery Unit.