National Referral Mechanism goes digital

Bahrain’s counter-trafficking efforts continue to make massive leaps both regionally and globally as its National Referral Mechanism (NRM) goes digital.The NRM is a multi-layered process that acts as a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to manage the cases of victims experiencing exploitative abuse of any kind, refers it to the relevant governmental agency, and follows it to its conclusion, the custodian of which is the Expat Protection Centre at the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA).

Around 7,300 cases of various grievances and complaints of all kinds have been cases handled by the NRM since its launch in February 2017. They were referred to the relevant authorities, a process that has been handled manually until now.

Chief Executive Officer of the Labour Market Regulatory Authority and Chairman of the National Committee to Combat Trafficking in Persons, Ausamah Alabsi said that the digital version of the NRM has come almost two years after its initial launch, as a huge progressive step forward that will enhance speed, efficiency, consistency, and accuracy of following up the cases received at the Expat Protection Centre.

He added that the system organises the tasks and responsibilities expected of the competent authorities to which potential victims have been referred. The system will also allow for maps to be made of the procedures each complaint received goes through before it reaches its conclusion, and each complaint will be categorised in accordance to its type – be it a labour case, abuse of any kind, or trafficking in persons and/or modern slavery practices.

“The importance of transforming the referral system into an electronic system is that it links all relevant parties – the LMRA, Ministry of the Interior, police stations, Ministry of Justice, Public Prosecution, hospitals and health centres, embassies and diplomatic missions -in all relevant processes from the identification of the victim, to case documentation and monitoring, to protection and assistance, and finally, to the  reintegration or voluntary return of the victim, thus enabling a consistent and expedient application of the standard operating procedure we already have in place,” he said.

The United Nations Migration Agency’s (IOM) resident representative, Mohamed El Zarkani said that automating the NRM makes it more accurate in how it registers the different types of cases that enter the referral mechanism.

“It also makes it a very effective follow up mechanism to ensure at what stage the referral process has reached to make it more time efficient, and to oversee that each stakeholder is fulfilling their specific function in the referral mechanism,” he said.

Under the digital NRM, no file is closed until all legal and administrative procedures have been completed; it also acts as a digital archive to all documents pertaining to a case, no matter how large the dossier is.

Data analysis will become a massively beneficial by-product for case managers, as victim profiles can be updated and trends can be identified, allowing law enforcement and other bodies to efficiently combat exploitation before it has the potential to escalate into more severe practices.

Both El Zarkani and the Head of the Expat Protection Centre, Shereen Al Saati have stressed the important role the automated NRM plays in regards to data analysis, saying an extremely important element of the system was its potential as a reporting and data analysis platform.