After the National Referral Mechanism
What next for survivors of trafficking?
Currently, the support a person receives through the National Referral Mechanism – the UK Government’s system for determining whether or not they believe a person is a survivor of trafficking – ends just weeks after they receive a positive decision. Being recognised as a survivor doesn’t come with an entitlement to further specialist support, which would help people to recover and rebuild their lives.
Our new report, Hope for the Future: Support for survivors of trafficking after the National Referral Mechanism, highlights the impact this lack of support has on survivors, including potentially putting people are risk of being re-trafficking and exploited again, and makes recommendations to address this. The report is based on an evaluation of a 15-month pilot of longer-term support for survivors of trafficking delivered by the British Red Cross, Ashiana and Hestia.
The pilot was co-funded by European Commission’s asylum migration and integration fund (AMIF), and provided support and information through outreach-based casework to a 70 women and men in England who had survived trafficking, had been identified through the National Referral Mechanism, but have lost access to specialist support as their 45-day "recovery and reflection period" had come to an end.
The need for individualised support when people exit the NRM: Survivors of trafficking continue to need support for at least 12 months after they leave the NRM. This support needs to be flexible, sufficiently resourced, and tailored to respond to the variable needs of survivors. All the people supported through STEP required one-on-one casework support, from a specialist caseworker, to help them access the support and services they need.
An insecure immigration status creates stress and can be a barrier to integration: The uncertainty and emotional stress of legal claims and appeals processes without clear timescales act as a barrier for accessing support. This includes struggling to access support services to work with a survivor of trafficking on longer term plans for greater independence and integration.
People exiting the NRM struggle to access secure housing: the move to long-term secure accommodation is often blocked by administrative delays relating to immigration decisions. The transition between Home Office accommodation and local authority housing varies hugely depending on area, and while some authorities are proactive about trying to achieve a seamless change, the issue needs to be addressed at a national level.
There is high prevalence of need for mental health support: The STEP survivor group had high mental health needs, and the findings highlighted difficulties in getting appropriate mental health treatment within a reasonable time frame. Survivors were placed on long waiting lists before they could receive the support they needed. For survivors in asylum accommodation, these long waits could then be compounded if they had to move area, when they would find themselves starting from scratch again in a new location.
Our calls to decision makers
Support: people who have been found to be survivors of trafficking should continue to receive tailored, person-centred support that helps them to rebuild their lives, for at least twelve months after they leave the National Referral Mechanism – irrespective of their immigration status.
Status: survivors of trafficking should be protected, and given security, through the grant of immigration status of at least 30 months.
Safe homes: people who have been found to be survivors of trafficking should be able to access secure, appropriate long-term accommodation.
Pathways: people leaving the National Referral Mechanism with a negative conclusive grounds decision should have a care pathway in place to help them access advice and support services.