An illustrated guide to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) 

Update: This guide has been updated to reflect current changes as of October 2023.

Migrants Organise has created an illustrated Guide to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM)” for survivors who have experienced trafficking to better understand the process of being referred into the NRM. 

Whilst not intended as legal advice, we hope this guide can be an engaging, helpful, factual resource for both those who have experienced trafficking or modern slavery and their caseworkers, supporters and advocates. 

“This guide is an important explanation of the UK trafficking-identification process (‘the NRM’). The NRM can be very difficult to understand, even for people in the system, and that makes it impossible for them to access their rights. This guide will let people understand what the NRM is, where they are in the process and what to expect next. Support workers and other professionals can use this guide to help explain the NRM to people who need an accessible introduction to it.” – Jennifer Blair (Immigration Barrister, No5 Chambers)

Why we made the Guide to the National Referral Mechanism

The Migrants Organise Community Programme works with many people  who may have a history of modern slavery or trafficking, and are unaware of the NRM and the support it entitles them to. Many of our members have complex mental health needs, varying levels of English and comprehension.

This Guide to the National Referral Mechanism was therefore born out of a need to communicate very complex and confusing systems and processes in a simplistic but engaging way.

The first sketches of this guide were made in an appointment with one of our members in February 2022 who was trying to comprehend the NRM process; the result is many conversations with staff and members to try to create something that is useful and informative, and that will hopefully go someway to demystifying the process of referral into the NRM. 

Read more below to learn more about the NRM, or download the toolkit now.

What is the National Referral Mechanism (NRM)? 

The National Referral Mechanism (NRM) is a framework coordinated through the Home office. It is “for “identifying and referring potential victims of modern slavery and ensuring they receive the appropriate support.

Modern slavery is a complex crime and may involve multiple forms of exploitation. It encompasses:

  • human trafficking
  • slavery, servitude, and forced or compulsory labour

An individual could have been a victim of human trafficking and/or slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour.

Survivors may not be aware that they are being trafficked or exploited, and may have consented to elements of their exploitation, or accepted their situation.

Once someone (for example, a caseworker, or any other professional working with the person) has identified indicators of trafficking or modern slavery they would submit a referral via a first responder and the relevant competent authority would fully consider the case.”

Read about the NRM on the website

For more information about this Guide to the National Referral Mechanism please contact

Please note: This toolkit is not a replacement for legal advice.  

Special thank you to Esme Kemp – Migrants Organise Caseworker and illustrator- for coming up with the idea for this Guide to the National Referral Mechanism and illustrating it so beautifully. You can see Esme’s other work here.

Thank you also to Sir Halley Stewart Trust who generously support and fund the Migrants Mental Capacity Advocacy Project.

The Migrants Organise Community Programme  works with around 550 migrants and refugees  every year.  We provide a combination of advice, advocacy, training, mentoring and group activities that create a safe and welcoming environment for our community members.