Fighting modern day slave trade

The term ‘modern day slave trade’ provokes strong and emotional responses and yet we tend to see it as something that only happens in big cities, far away from us. Sadly, that is not the case as our caseworkers know how this is happening today on our doorstep.

Modern slavery is comprised of human trafficking and slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour. This can affect both adults and children and some general indicators can suggest if someone is a victim of trafficking as shown in the picture below.

Caption: As published on

In 2009, The National Referral Mechanism (NRM) for victims of human trafficking was introduced to identify and refer potential survivors of modern slavery and ensure they receive the appropriate support.

Potential victims of trafficking are referred to the UK’s Single Competent Authority by a designated ‘first responder’ such as the police or the salvation army. The NRM then grants a minimum 45-day reflection and recovery period for victims of human trafficking whist they decide whether they should be considered to be victims of trafficking.

A 2014 review into the NRM process heard from professionals that “the referral process is crucial but both ill-timed and clumsy as it does not allow for the development of trust and confidence in the first responder by the victim to support full disclosure. The result is often an incomplete picture of the circumstances surrounding the trafficking and a more difficult task to make an informed decision on whether the victim has been trafficked.”

Moreover, victims reported “not being sure what the process was for and a general lack of clarity on the purpose of the MRM and how referral can be of benefit to a victim. A lack of understanding of the implications of referral hampers the first responders’ ability to advise a potential victim on the next steps. This lead to the quality of referrals being low and inconsistent with some First Responders providing comprehensive information and others very little to support a decision.”

Unfortunately, our experience at RA-C is that not much has changed since the 2014 review.

Victims still don’t always seem to know their referral status and often there is little co-ordination and lack of clarity for all involved. Our case workers have had difficulty reaching first responders and the general feeling amongst victims and professionals, is that there is a lack of support perhaps due, as the 2014 review says that the system is unclear.

One of the people we have assisted with this process, was a pregnant lady forced by her captors to terminate. She took the courage to tell the nurse about her situation and although her case was reported and she was taken to safety, her situation has been unclear for months. Even after we stepped in to help her, we found many barriers and have been unable to reassure her of what will happen to her next.

It goes without saying that people who find the courage to get out of these situations deserve more clarity and to feel that they can have confidence in the system they are trusting their lives with.

If you believe a person is being trafficked, you can report modern slavery as a member of the public. You can call the modern slavery helpline on 0800 0121 700 or report it online. You can also report suspicions of trafficking by calling 101 or visiting your local police station. If you believe that someone is in an immediate danger, you should call 999 straight away.