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Putting the 'Slave' in 'Anti-Slavery': A Critical Analysis of the UK National Referral Mechanism

Findlay, J


J Findlay


Laura Connelly


This thesis presents a critical analysis of the UK government’s National Referral Mechanism (NRM), which supposedly exists to identify and support victims of ‘modern slavery and human trafficking’ (MSHT). Critical scholarship on MSHT has argued that anti-trafficking is anti-immigration, but this conclusion has not been properly applied to literature on the NRM. I argue that the NRM is best understood as part of the anti-migrant hostile environment rather than simply being subordinated to it. Resistance to entering the NRM can be well-understood by looking at the lives of undocumented people, for whom evasion of state systems can be a normal part of life. This thesis addresses how and why the NRM is being sustained and how it can be resisted. It draws on elements of critical realist philosophy, as well as anarchist, decolonising and feminist literature, and is based on a thematic analysis of 20 semi-structured qualitative interviews with people in different roles in and around the NRM. The thesis explains that the NRM is sustained by the strategies of frontline workers, who produce referrals in the face of prevalent resistance. These encounters can be understood in relation to the ideological obedience typical within bureaucracies and the ideological insubordination commonly found among disenfranchised people. The most significant ideology for extending the reach of immigration controls through the NRM is the MSHT construction, which encourages those who seek to support abused and exploited people to facilitate harmful state interactions. This thesis ultimately argues that transformation depends upon distinguishing between the valuable labour of support workers and the organised domination of their labour through the NRM bureaucracy. It urges the importance of discourse and practices of solidarity with all who are persecuted by immigration controls, and provides evidence that such alternatives are already being practiced.


Findlay, J. Putting the 'Slave' in 'Anti-Slavery': A Critical Analysis of the UK National Referral Mechanism. (Thesis). University of Salford

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Apr 12, 2023
Publicly Available Date Apr 12, 2023
Award Date Oct 4, 2022


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