IASC and University of Nottingham Rights Lab launch: New report on re-trafficking


To mark the release of Re-trafficking: The current state of play please find below a blog from the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Dame Sara Thornton.

Joseph (not his real name) was deceived by traffickers with the promise of a good job in construction in this country. When he arrived in London, his documents were taken and he was forced to work in a carwash for more than ten hours a day. He received very little pay and slept in an overcrowded flat, where he experienced daily abuse. He eventually escaped and was sleeping rough where he was found by a charity, The Passage, who supported him into protection within the National Referral Mechanism (NRM). After receiving a positive trafficking decision, Joseph gained part-time employment, housing and immigration status. However he was not used to living along and fell back into alcohol misuse. He was eventually told by a “friend” about a job in the construction sector and was again exploited.

I suspect that Joseph is one of many vulnerable people who are repeatedly exploited.

Today my office launches a new joint report with the University of Nottingham Rights Lab, which examines the evidence, data and literature on re-trafficking. For a number of years I have been surprised and concerned about the lack of emphasis on preventing re-trafficking shown by policymakers and government. We know from wider criminological evidence about re-victimisation that victims are at greater risk of experiencing further harm, and modern slavery is no different. However, our knowledge base on re-trafficking is largely anecdotal and we do not have an agreed definition of re-trafficking, hampering efforts to collect and assess any data.

I therefore commissioned Kate Garbers, Research Fellow in Policy Evidence and Survivor Support at the University of Nottingham Rights Lab, to undertake a rapid research project to identify knowledge and data gaps in relation to re-trafficking and its causes, and to hear from those across the sector on their understanding of the reality of re-trafficking on the ground. We ran a call for evidence inviting service providers, civil society and survivor organisations, and policymakers to submit views about the definition of re-trafficking, its causes and drivers, and prevention and mitigation. A rich set of case studies obtained through the call for evidence demonstrated that re-trafficking is happening in a UK context, and is affecting a diverse range of survivors regardless of gender, age, nationality and exploitation type.

We need to listen to survivors and support providers about their experiences, and incorporate such crucial insights into policy guidance and the systems of support for survivors of modern slavery. This new report brings together the insights and experiences of those who have faced re-trafficking and those who have supported them, and identifies three areas to address for us to better understand re-trafficking in the UK. The first area concerns the need to develop a consensus on a definition of re-trafficking and to embed this in policy and guidance on modern slavery. The second area is on the lack of data on the prevalence of re-trafficking, needed to inform appropriate responses. The final area is on the importance of developing dedicated reintegration pathways for survivors remaining in the UK or returning to another country. Without this, survivors are socially excluded, economically disempowered and at greater risk of re-trafficking.

To support this research project, in June I requested data from the Home Office on the information collected and held in relation to re-trafficking as part of the NRM and the Modern Slavery Victim Care Contract before, during and after NRM support. Data was sought on the numbers of referrals to support and how many individuals have returned to support, been referred more than once, gone missing or absconded from support services. I also requested data on whether the risk of re-trafficking is being recorded across the Modern Slavery Victim Care Contract and what is being done to address the issue of re-trafficking. I have not received a formal response to this data request. It is essential that research is supported by data which can be shared and scrutinised in our efforts to build the evidence base on modern slavery.

This report is an important first step to addressing the challenges of data, definitions and responses to re-trafficking. I hope that the issues raised and the research it presents will go some way towards informing practical action to better understand and respond to this critical issue.


Read the report Re-Trafficking: The current state of play