The National Referral Mechanism (NRM) has released new statistics which illustrates the high number of victims of slavery that are bound up in those seeking asylum in the United Kingdom. Overall, 2022 statistics are high – beginning from the increase in small boat arrivals picked up by first responders at the UK border, to the Duty to Notify process seeing the highest number of reports ever to the Home Office (4,580) – to the highest number of potential victims of modern slavery recorded through the NRM ever (16,938), a 33% increase since the prior year. As such the highest number of slavery cases were recorded in 2022. 88% of reasonable grounds cases (17,000) and 89% of conclusive grounds cases (6,000) that were considered by the competent authorities were deemed positive. This shows that the majority of cases claimed to be slavery, are indeed slavery, and the UK Modern Slavery Act plays a critical role in international human rights justice for those seeking asylum.
Imbedded with political issues surrounding high numbers of immigrants entering the UK, fears arise around the exploitation of this system that is designed to protect victims.
According to NRM statistics, for the first year Albanian nationals were the highest number of referrals per nationality, exceeding UK nationals at 25%, mostly being child potential victims of slavery. Albanian nationals accounted for 27% of potential victims of modern slavery, mostly being adults, and many arriving via small boats to UK shores. This has given rise to backlash at the statistics with rhetoric suggesting Albanian refugees are ‘claiming to be slavery victims’ using the UK Modern Slavery Act. However, migrants also from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and Syria arriving in small boats are usually unable to access visas, passports or conventional safe routes of immigration and are therefore highly vulnerable to the exploitation of human traffickers.
For further information, see the Home Office National Referral Mechanism and Duty to Notify statistics UK, end of year summary 2022.
Philippa Southwell, HTMSE’s founder, has appeared on the BBC Radio 4 documentary ‘A Long Way from Vietnam’ alongside the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, and others, where she discussed the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) for victims of modern slavery and human trafficking.
The programme is presented by BBC journalist Nga Pham and explores why irregular Vietnamese migration is the second highest into the UK and delves into the experiences of migrants through discussions with the Vietnamese community, lawyers, police officers and the Minister for Immigration.
Approximately 70% of Philippa’s client base is currently Vietnamese. In the programme, Philippa discussed her own experience with the NRM and the delays faced by her clients in receiving their determinations – having to sometimes wait for months and even years for a confirmation of their trafficking status.
‘A Long Way from Vietnam’ was broadcast on 24th August 2021 and will be repeated on the 29th August. It can also be accessed on the BBC Sounds website.
The report A Game of Chance? Long-term support for survivors of Modern Slavery by Dr. Carole Murphy at The Centre for the Study of Modern Slavery offers a comprehensive analysis into the UK’s current approach to support for victims of human trafficking and modern slavery. It highlights the significant gaps in survivor care, most notably in long-term support. There is little done beyond the 45 day reflection and recovery period of the National Referral Mechanism, after which financial assistance ends and survivors are vulnerable to re-trafficking and exploitation. Hence, the report suggests the “system and its processes and procedures are not fit for purpose and have the potential to cause harm to survivors through re-traumatisation, falling through gaps in service provision and potential re-exploitation.”
The key recommendations are:
- Resource services to work with complexity of survivors’ needs relevant statutory and voluntary sector
- A positive Conclusive Grounds (CG) decision must carry status and resources (see Lord Mc Coll’s (Victim Support) Bill)
- Trafficking Survivor Care Standards (HTF) should be implemented as standard model of best practice and should consider introduction of independent advocates
- Statutory guidelines should be introduced and monitored and include compulsory and embedded training for all First Responders and other statutory services
- Personnel conducting CG interviews should be properly trained
- Undertake consistent monitoring of the NRM drawing on evidence based research about what works
- Document evidence of what works by conducting a cost benefit analysis to establish the social return on investment of longer-term support provision
- Consider evidence and best practice from other jurisdictions to inform changes
For the full report on A Game of Chance? Long-term support for survivors of Modern Slavery by Dr. Carole Murphy The Centre for the Study of Modern Slavery, read here.