Government approves proposal for a revised National Referral Mechanism to make it easier for human trafficking victims to come forward and receive supports


11 May 2021

The Government today approved plans for a revised National Referral Mechanism (NRM) to make it easier for victims of human trafficking to come forward and be supported. Minister of State for Civil and Criminal Justice, Hildegarde Naughton TD has also received approval to draft a general scheme of a Bill to put the new NRM on a statutory footing.

The NRM provides a way for all agencies, both State and civil society, to co-operate, share information about potential victims, identify those victims and facilitate their access to advice, accommodation and support. It is the framework through which States fulfil obligations to protect and promote the human rights of trafficking victims. Minister Naughton’s proposals will make it easier for victims to come forward and be officially recognised as victims of human trafficking in order to receive appropriate supports.

Welcoming the approval of this proposal, Minister Naughton said,

“These reforms will make it easier for victims of human trafficking to come forward and seek protection. It will also make it easier for the State to provide that support and protection in a collaborative way across the range of Departments and agencies, and working with key NGOs.

“I want to stress how important this proposal is not only in terms of Ireland’s substantive response on how we reach and protect victims of this heinous crime – which is the most important thing – but also on our international reputation.

Currently, when suspected victims of human trafficking are encountered by, or referred to, An Garda Síochána, they are provided with a wide range of services by both the Government and NGOs through the NRM. It is widely accepted that having the Gardaí as the sole competent authority for the formal recognition of people as victims of human trafficking is not an adequate response. Many victims will not approach the police, but may be more comfortable approaching a different state body, or an NGO.

The new approach proposed by Minister Naughton acknowledges that, in addition to An Garda Síochána, other state bodies and NGOs have a role in identifying victims of human trafficking and referring them to the National Referral Mechanism. The Minister said,

“An Garda Síochána are excellent in their role as our competent authority but we know some victims, because of interactions they may have had with law enforcement officials in other jurisdictions, have a perception that police can not be trusted.

“We want to be sure that every victim of trafficking is identified and helped so that we can support them. Doing this will also help us gather more information and evidence in order to bring to justice the traffickers who prey on vulnerable people with no regard for the lives and safety of their victims.

“The new NRM we are proposing to introduce will provide a variety of avenues for victims of trafficking to be identified and find a route to the services we have available.”

In addition to An Garda Síochána, it is being proposed that the following agencies will become competent authorities for the identification of victims of human trafficking:

These agencies each already have interaction with potential victims of human trafficking. The agencies will together form a National Referral Mechanism Operational Committee, which will make decisions on entry of victims into the NRM. In addition, some NGOs will be designated as ‘trusted partners’ and will also be able to refer victims to the NRM, which creates an alternative and trusted pathway to enter the NRM, aside from through interaction with State agencies

These proposals follow the recent announcement by Minister McEntee of an initiative to expunge previous convictions for ‘sale of sex’, or prostitution offences, and are a significant step in recognising and responding to the needs of victims of sex trafficking, and those forced to provide sexual services.


Additional Information

The outline of the new NRM structure can be read here - National Referral Mechanism structure.