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The National Referral Mechanism (NRM) (presentation)

NRM presentation

A short presentation that covers the key stages of a victim’s journey through the National Referral Mechanism.


The NRM is a framework for identifying victims of modern slavery and ensuring they receive the appropriate protection and support.

It was introduced in 2009 to enable the government to meet its obligation to identify victims.

No consent is required from a child to be referred to the NRM. This is because child trafficking or slavery is seen as a child protection issue and no consent is required from a child subject to child protection investigation / proceedings.

The Home Office stated:

The National Referral Mechanism will provide a framework within which public bodies such as the criminal justice agencies, UK Visas and Immigration, local authorities and third sector partners can work together to identify individuals who may be victims of modern slavery and provide appropriate protection and support. Front-line professionals will refer individuals who they think may be evidencing signs of being a victim of modern slavery to designated ‘Competent Authorities’ who work with partners to make an assessment.

The Competent Authorities are:

  • The Modern Slavery Human Trafficking Unit (MSHTU) based in the National Crime Agency (NCA) –  UK and European nationals will be referred to this body first
  • The Home Office (UK Visas and Immigration) – non European nationals will be referred here

The NRM process

First responders

To be referred to the NRM, potential victims of modern slavery will be referred to the Competent Authority by an authorised agency such as a police force, UK Visas and Immigration, social services or certain independent organisations. The referring authority is known as the ‘first responder’.

First responder agencies include:

Legal representatives are not first responders!

The first responder will complete a referral form to pass the case to the competent authority. There is an adult referral form and a child referral form. You can find the referral forms and guidance here.

Once a referral has been made, trained experts will assess the case and make a decision on whether an individual is a victim of modern slavery. There are several steps in this process:

Stage one: Reasonable grounds

Upon receipt of a referral:

  • The Competent Authority shall within a target date of five working days decide whether there are ‘reasonable grounds’ to believe the person is a potential victim of modern slavery.
  • This test has a low threshold and is lower than the threshold required for prima facie evidence (which is legally sufficient evidence, that if uncontested, would establish a fact or raise a presumption of a fact).
  • The test should be applied is whether the statement ‘from the information available so far I suspect but cannot prove’ that the person is a potential victim of modern slavery and whether a reasonable person would be of the opinion that, having regard to the information in the mind of the decision maker, there were reasonable grounds to suspect the individual had been trafficked or subjected to slavery.
  • To answer this may involve seeking additional information from the first responder, specialist independent agencies or social services.

If the decision is positive the person is granted a 45 day reflection period / recovery period. During this time the individual is not subject to immigration enforcement. The process is to allow the individual to escape the control of the trafficker and for the competent authority to gather further evidence.

There is discretion to extend the 45 days. The Home Office can also take longer to make a final decision on the case if it needs to get more information or faces “administrative delays”. If there are delays at the Home Office then it is a good idea to check that the Home Office have formally extended the recovery period at the same time, and give evidence of the impact of the delay on the client (for example a support worker can write a letter about the impact on the client’s health if this has been a problem).

Stage two: Conclusive grounds

  • During the recovery and reflection period the competent authority gathers further information relating to the referral from the first responder and other agencies. This additional information is used to make a conclusive decision on whether the referred person is a victim of modern slavery.
  • At the end of the recovery and reflection period, the competent authority must make a conclusive grounds decision as to whether the individual is a victim of modern slavery.
  • The test at this stage is on the balance of probabilities there is sufficient information to conclude that the individual has more likely than not a victim of modern slavery.

A negative reasonable grounds or negative conclusive grounds decision can be challenged by way of reconsideration or judicial review (which is a type of court case).

Reconsideration can be requested by a first responder or support provider.

There are strict time limits for judicial review. A victim must act quickly and put in a claim to court no later than 3 months from the date of the decision they want to challenge.

www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/521763/Victims_of_modern_slavery_-_Competent_Authority_guidance_v3_0.pdf – see p.91 on Reconsideration

Residence permits

Article 14 of the Convention states:

  • Each Party shall issue a renewable residence permit to victims, in one or other of the two following situations or in both:
    – the component authority considers that their stay is necessary owing to their personal situation;
    – the competent authority considers that their stay is necessary for the purpose of their co-operation with the competent authorities in investigation or criminal proceedings.
  • The residence permit for child victims, when legally necessary, shall be issued in accordance with the best interests of the child and, where appropriate, renewed under the same conditions.

The residence permit can last for any period up to 30 months.

A refusal of a residence permit can be challenged by way of a judicial review.

Children and the NRM

Firstly, important to note that in relation to the definition of modern slavery, any child who is moved into a situation of exploitation or is used for the purposes of exploitation is considered to be a child victim whether or not they have been forced or deceived. This is because it is not considered possible for a child to give consent.

No consent is required from the child for a referral to the NRM. This position was explained by the Home Office to the child trafficking charity ECPAT UK by email in 2009 as follows:

‘consent from the child for the referral may be obtained but not necessarily. In the same way as any child protection referral the referral will be made with or without the consent from the child’

There is no requirement for the child to be interviewed for identification purposes under the convention.

Contact details

NRM Hub Leeds

The Competent Authority within UK Visas and Immigration (the Home Office) can be based in a number of different places. However the office in Leeds deals with a large number of cases.

Tel: (10am-12 & 1-3pm Mon – Fri) 0113 341 2159

Fax: 0870 3369 360

Email: neyh.ukba.nrm@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk

The Salvation Army (a large First Responder):

Tel: 0300 303 8151 (24/7 Referral Line)

Email: mst@salvationarmy.org.uk

https://www.salvationarmy.org.uk/about-human-trafficking

The Modern Slavery Human Trafficking Unit (formerly UKHTC):

Email: nrm@nca.x.gsi.gov.uk (for First Responders to refer a case into the NRM)

www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk/about-us/what-we-do/specialist-capabilities/uk-human-trafficking-centre/national-referral-mechanism

Unseen Modern Slavery Helpline –providing information and support to the public (including victims) on a 24/7 basis:

Tel: 08000 121 700

http://www.unseenuk.org/about/projects/Helpline-&-Resource-Centre

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