The National Referral Mechanism (NRM) is the process for identifying victims of human trafficking or modern slavery and ensuring they receive the appropriate support.
A potential victim of trafficking is referred to the NRM who then make a decision whether a person has been trafficked. It is important that lawyers representing a child who has been or might have been trafficked use this process to ensure they are not wrongly prosecuted for criminal behaviour arising their trafficking, slavery or exploitation. Read our YJLC Guide to Modern Slavery and County Lines.
In England and Wales, only designated first responders can refer cases to the NRM. First Responders are:
- Local Authorities (this includes social workers and youth offending teams)
- Police forces
- UK Border Force
- Home Office Visas and Immigration
- Home Office Immigration Enforcement
- Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority
- Health and Social Care Trusts (Northern Ireland)
- Salvation Army
- Poppy Project
- Migrant Help
- Medaille Trust
- TARA Project (Scotland)
- NSPCC (CTAC)
- New Pathways
- Refugee Council
Criminal lawyers cannot make a referral to the NRM themselves and must notify one of the designated first responders.
Following referral to the NRM, a ‘Competent Authority’ will make a decision whether on the balance of probability ‘it is more likely than not’ that the individual is a victim of human trafficking or modern slavery. The final decision is called a ‘conclusive grounds’ decision. In the UK the two Competent Authorities are the NCA’s Modern Slavery Human Trafficking Unit (MSHTU) and the Home Office Visas and Immigration (UKVI).
The NCA’s Modern Slavery Human Trafficking Unit (MSHTU) makes decisions on all cases involving:
- UK nationals
- European Economic Area (EEA) nationals (except where there is a live immigration issue)
When MSHTU receives a referral relating to an EEA who is subject to immigration control or a non-EEA national, they will refer the case to the Home Office Competent Authority, who will make the decision.