After the National Referral Mechanism

What next for survivors of trafficking?

Overview of the report

Our report, After the National Referral Mechanism – what next for survivors of trafficking?, draws on the experience of 38 survivors of trafficking supported in the first 6 months of the STEP project.

This pilot, delivered by the British Red Cross, Ashiana and Hestia, and co-funded by European Commission’s asylum migration and integration fund (AMIF), provides long-term support for survivors of trafficking. 

It provides support and information through outreach-based casework to a minimum of 50 women and men in England who have survived trafficking, have been identified through the National Referral Mechanism, but have lost access to specialist support as their 45-day "recovery and reflection period" has come or is coming to an end.

Of the 38 people featured in the report, 32 were women, 4 of whom were pregnant. 17 different nationalities had been assisted through the pilot and 22 of those supported had experienced sexual exploitation.

Download the report (PDF)

Key findings

The need for individualised support when people exit the NRM: When people leave the NRM, they become ineligible for assistance provided through it. However, the need for support does not end at that point.

People exiting the NRM struggle to access secure housing: None of the people supported in the STEP project were in secure, long-term accommodation when they were referred for support. The majority were housed in accommodation provided by the Home Office based on asylum claims.

There is high prevalence of need for mental health support: There were very high needs for mental health services among those who accessed support under the STEP programme. 26 of the people in the programme were identified as being in need of some mental health support.

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.

Download the report (PDF)

Our calls to decision makers

  • Support should be provided to anyone leaving the NRM following a positive conclusive grounds decision. To enable this, people with an insecure immigration status who received a positive conclusive grounds decision should be granted a minimum of 12 months leave to remain.
  • All those leaving the NRM following a negative conclusive grounds decision should have a care pathway in place. The pathway should take on a multi-agency approach, led by statutory bodies and should identify any vulnerabilities, and access to necessary support.
  • The support provided to people leaving the NRM needs to be based on individual need.
  • Local authorities should work with the Home Office and providers of asylum accommodation to ensure a smooth transition for those leaving the NRM and/or asylum support system, reducing the risk of homelessness and further exploitation and re-trafficking.

Download the report (PDF)

Contact us


Jon Featonby -


Fiona MacLeod -


Cate Manning -

Northern Ireland

Mary Friel -