Press Releases

PRESS RELEASE : Call for bids – multi-year project proposals to tackle modern slavery and human trafficking in and from Romania [April 2023]

The press release issued by the Foreign Office on 21 April 2023.

The UK invites project proposals to reduce trafficking of Romanians to the UK and strengthen responses to MSHT in Romania, focusing on prevention, support and building capability.


Romania is a source, transit and destination country for modern slavery and human trafficking (MSHT). MSHT is a priority issue for the UK Government and we work closely with the Romanian Government, civil society and law enforcement to tackle this threat.

Romanian nationals were the top EU nationality referred to the UK National Referral Mechanism (NRM) in 2022 and the ninth highest nationality overall. They were also the fifth most reported nationality on the Duty to Notify list (recording potential victims not referred to the NRM) and are consistently the top nationality calling the Modern Slavery and Exploitation Helpline in the UK. Statistics from the UK and Romania demonstrate a need to address sexual, criminal and labour exploitation between the two countries. While the UK and Romania work closely together to share information and build a stronger picture of the prevalence of MSHT, we appreciate that this is a hidden crime and so there may be gaps in our knowledge or evidence relating to this issue.

Assessment of the available data shows that labour exploitation is the most commonly referred exploitation type for male adults, criminal exploitation is most commonly referred for male children, sexual exploitation for female adults, and sexual and criminal exploitation for female children. While information is limited on where victims are from, current assessments suggest the majority are from the central, eastern and south-eastern areas of Romania. Some data shows that male victims of labour exploitation typically come from central Romania, including Brasov county, whereas female victims of sexual exploitation typically come from eastern areas, including the counties of Bacau, Braila, Galati, Iasi and Tulcea. Ialomita and Prahova were also identified as two further counties of note for victims of sexual exploitation. Criminal exploitation does not appear to be of the same scale as labour and sexual exploitation and victims are typically children that are already residing in the UK with their families.

Lower standards of living and education alongside high rates of unemployment appear to be factors criminals exploit to target their victims, many of whom are seeking to improve their conditions and economic opportunities outside of these areas. Distrust of authorities and lack of awareness about these types of crimes may also be significant factors that can increase vulnerabilities to MSHT.

Victims of sexual exploitation are typically recruited through ‘lover boy’ or ‘boyfriend’ grooming techniques, exploiting vulnerable women under the pretence of a relationship and with the promise of money and luxury goods. Social media sites, such as Facebook, are used by criminals to search for and recruit potential victims. In many cases (although not all), victims are aware they are coming to the UK for sex work and some may already work in the sex industry in Romania. However, they are often deceived about the money they will make, the hours they will work and the types of sexual acts they will have to perform. It is suspected that Adult Service Websites (ASWs) play a role in the recruitment and exploitation of potential victims.

Labour exploitation of Romanians in the UK is typically through manual labour sectors, such as car washes and the construction industry. Victims are typically promised better, well paid, jobs abroad and are usually aware of the work they will be doing in the UK. Recruitment is often informal, through word of mouth via friends, family or acquaintances who may have connections to criminal groups or may have been previously recruited themselves. It is highly likely these victims are looking for economic opportunities abroad, perhaps to support family members in Romania, and have been led to believe that greater financial security exists for them if they work in the UK. Some victims may be recruited through social media. There remains an evidence gap as to the use of online marketplace trading websites by criminal groups to recruit potential victims.

Transport to the UK is typically via budget commercial airlines for female victims, who can travel with their trafficker and convey an appearance to border officials that they are friends or in a relationship. Larger groups of male victims are often transported by car, coach or minibus. It is likely that some transport operators or drivers are complicit in trafficking victims to the UK although further evidence is needed to understand the extent to which they enable these criminal groups.

The 2023 Romanian-British Strategic Partnership sets out the UK and Romania’s commitment to work together to tackle all forms of MSHT alongside other types of serious organised crime. This includes activity on prevention and tackling push and pull factors; identifying, protecting and reintegrating victims on return to Romania and working with law enforcement and the justice system on bringing perpetrators to justice.

To support this engagement, the UK Home Office and British Embassy Bucharest invites organisations active in combatting MSHT in Romania or Romanian communities in the UK to present proposals for projects to meet the below objectives. These proposals should be for projects between July 2023 and February 2025. Projects will be funded through the Home Office Modern Slavery Fund and should be between the value of 279,420 RON and 670,608 RON or £50,000 and £120,000.

Objective: what we expect projects to achieve

Collectively, projects should contribute towards an overall impact of reducing the number of Romanians trafficked to the UK and strengthening related UK and Romanian national responses to modern slavery and human trafficking.

Proposed projects must meet one or more of these 3 outcomes:

  1. Prevent: reduce vulnerability in Romania and/or of Romanian nationals to exploitation through better understanding of risks and addressing drivers.
  2. Pursue: strengthen the capability of professionals in the UK and Romania to disrupt MSHT from Romania and implement relevant victim-centred responses.
  3. Support: improve existing state and community support systems for MSHT survivors in Romania throughout identification, repatriation, and reintegration.

The selected projects will be considered as part of a larger effort to balance efforts across all 3 outcomes. Examples of potential activity (not exhaustive) are provided under Example Activities. A visual Theory of Change (ToC) setting out how the selected projects should contribute to the overall impact is set out in annex I (PDF626 KB1 page) (PDF, 636 KB). This ToC gives an overall understanding of how the UK Government will make use of political engagement and programmes to achieve a set of complementary outcomes.

Projects that show the strongest alignment with the ToC (expected impact and outcomes) will be prioritised for funding. Given related concerns about online child sexual abuse and exploitation, and trafficking of third country nationals through Romania (e.g. Ukrainian or Vietnamese nationals), projects that contribute to the overarching impact and address these issues will be favoured.

We expect implementing partners to be civil society organisations based in Romania or the UK. We strongly encourage cooperation and joint project proposals between UK and Romanian organisations and joint applications will be favoured.

Scope of projects

Proposed projects must meet the following essential criteria:

  • contribute to at least one of the three key outcomes listed above (Prevent, Pursue, Support), as well as the overarching impact. The projects should be aligned with the overall outcomes above but not be a copy-paste – each project should have its own outcome(s)
  • take place in Romania and/or with Romanian communities in the UK. Activity should generally have a national scope; projects with a smaller geographic focus (eg. focusing on specific regions) are welcome, but will need to demonstrate an evidence-based rationale for the focus
  • activity to take place between July 2023 and February 2025 (20 months). Shorter periods are acceptable, but ideally projects would run for as long as possible to maximise impact. A review will be carried out in January 2024 to monitor that projects are on track to deliver milestones
  • have a value between £50,000 and £120,000 GBP or 279,420 RON and 670,608 RON (administration costs should not exceed 10% of the total budget). See detail in the Budget section

Evaluation criteria

Projects will also be evaluated on the following criteria – proportional to the value of the bid:

  • evidence-based: clear understanding of the context and factors affecting MSHT in Romania or between Romania and the UK, ‘what works’ to address them, and alignment with existing state and civil society activity
  • value for money, including evidence of a consideration of economy, efficiency and effectiveness. Economy is the degree to which inputs are being purchased in the right quantity and at the right price. Efficiency is how efficiently the project is delivering its outputs, considering the rate at which intervention inputs are converted to outputs and its cost-efficiency. Effectiveness is the quality of the intervention’s work by assessing the rate at which outputs are converted into outcomes and impacts, and the cost-effectiveness of this conversion
  • MEL: whether the project has an adequate and proportionate Theory of Change (in a narrative and/or diagram form), results framework with quantitative and qualitative indicators, a named team member responsible for monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) with some experience in the area, and a proportionate budget and plan for MEL throughout project implementation
  • how project delivery risks will be managed, including a commitment to put in place high safeguarding standards, where relevant
  • how the project will have a sustainable impact beyond the lifetime of the funding, which would ideally include an exit plan (that could include plans to obtain future financing from elsewhere)
  • whether the project team has relevant expertise and experience in working on MSHT or related subjects in Romania, as well as detailed knowledge of the Romanian context, or a demonstrable track record of working on MSHT in Romania or with Romanian communities in the UK
  • whether the project considers gender sensitivity, and will, as far as possible, engage survivors of MSHT (e.g. people with lived experience) in project design and delivery
  • whether it meets additional desirable criteria, i.e. is joint project proposals between UK and Romanian organisations or will meet include additional elements to address online child sexual abuse and exploitation, or trafficking of third country nationals through Romania (e.g. Ukrainian or Vietnamese nationals)

Example activities

We cannot fund business as usual activities or one-time capital costs (e.g. construction or equipment).

Indicative potential activities that we could fund are set out below against each of the three outcomes. These are not exhaustive and we would encourage creative and innovative proposals that would meet the main outcomes:

Prevent: reduce vulnerability in Romania and/or of Romanian nationals to exploitation through better understanding of risks and addressing drivers.

Examples: targeted and evidence-based behaviour change communication campaigns; research to understand drivers and enablers and what works to address modern slavery in and from Romania; pilot projects to mobilise action on drivers or improve access to safe employment; projects linked to addressing or better understanding socio-economic drivers and vulnerabilities.

Pursue: strengthen the capability of professionals in the UK and Romania to disrupt MSHT from Romania and implement relevant victim-centred responses.

Examples: capacity building for public authorities or law enforcement to improve effectiveness of investigations and prosecution and understanding and building trust in law enforcement and government authorities.

Support: improve existing state and community support systems for MSHT survivors in Romania throughout identification, repatriation, and reintegration.

Examples: pilot improved mechanisms at local/country level to provide community based, holistic support; pilot mechanisms to improve access to safe employment; campaigns or training designed at reducing stigma and prejudice in public narratives, involving survivors/people with lived experience of MSHT.

Project approach

The UK Home Office and British Embassy Bucharest will approve project proposals. The proposal will form the basis for project planning. The proposal should set out how the implementing partner will deliver activities to support the impact set out above with an implementation plan, clear objectives and measurable outcomes, and supporting Theory of Change and activity based budget.

The proposal should also set out how the project can be scaled up or down to help the British Embassy to allocate the funding across the outcomes.

The British Embassy Bucharest will oversee the project planning and support implementers in developing necessary contacts, including as required with Romanian authorities.

The Embassy will also provide contact persons and focal points in UK institutions, or experts, as needed to support project delivery with UK best practice or expertise. The Embassy will also facilitate contact, if needed, with UK organisations working on MSHT and the Romanian Embassy in London.

The implementing organisation is expected to engage with due diligence processes ahead of funds being awarded. It is also expected to have a clear risk management and safeguarding approach.

The Embassy will also facilitate strengthening of monitoring, evaluation and learning and safeguarding capabilities for implementing partners through UK Government expertise. Through the onboarding process, we will work with implementing partners to define a clear assessment of learning needs.

The Embassy will provide a dedicated contact point for project management. The implementing organisation is expected to provide at least one dedicated contact point, and clearly set out responsibilities and roles if there is more than one. Both partners will participate in regular progress discussions.

The Embassy and Home Office will conduct a project review in January 2024 on progress against agreed milestones. Based on this review, we reserve the right to withdraw, scale down, or offer additional funding.

Project reporting

The reports to be produced during the implementation of the project are to be delivered in English.

Successful bidders will be expected to provide:

  • a refined project proposal, activity based budget and Theory of Change addressing any concerns raised by the assessment panel. In addition, this should set out a more detailed risk register, safeguarding approach and any additional details, such as a communications plan
  • quarterly progress reporting against milestones in the results framework and risk management, as appropriate
  • financial reporting, including evidence of project spending, ahead of payments
  • a final evaluation report, to be produced by the end of March 2025, to be agreed between the Embassy and implementer

Composition of project teams

The British Embassy Bucharest will nominate a Project Director, British Embassy Bucharest (David Edmondson) and a Project Manager, (Maria Petrescu, MSHT Project Manager) to oversee the project delivery.

Project proposals should demonstrate that the implementing partner’s staffing levels are appropriate to deliver the aims of the project and that the staff have relevant expertise and experience in working on MSHT or related subjects in Romania, as well as detailed knowledge of the Romanian context. They should also have a demonstrable track record of working on MSHT in Romania or with Romanian communities in the UK.

Timing and scope of input

The bidding round is an open and competitive process, assessed by the UK Home Office and the British Embassy in Bucharest. The selected partner will be contacted in June. Once a bid is approved, a Grant Agreement will be signed with the successful bidders, dependent on successful completion of due diligence. You will find an example of a Grant Agreement online on the same page as this document.

Your organisation will be expected to sign the contract within one week of the funds being awarded. Failure to do so may result in the funds being re-allocated.

It is expected that the project will be carried out from July 2023 to end February 2025, with a review point in January 2024. Final reporting should be prepared in March 2025 latest. The crucial milestones will be the submission of quarterly reports and the Final Report (March 2025). Reporting schedules will be clearly set out in grant agreements.

Extension of the grant agreements after March 2025 may be possible subject to fund availability and on satisfactory performance and progress against agreed outcomes.

Send any questions regarding the call for bids to


Project proposals must include an estimated budget of at least 279,420 RON and a maximum of 670,608 RON or at least £50,000 and a maximum of £120,000.

These figures have been determined through use of a set budget exchange rate, which you are also required to use in your own budgeting: £1 = 5.5884 RON.

It is expected all costs incurred will be from within this budget. Administration costs should not exceed 10% of the total. There should also be a proportionate budget for monitoring evaluation and learning, covering staff cost, expenses related to monitoring activities (e.g. field visits, feedback surveys) and evaluation and learning activities.

If implementing partners are eligible to pay VAT, the activity based budget should include the cost of VAT as a separate budget line.

We expect to make payments in arrears (i.e. not to make pre-payments). Reimbursements will be completed once activities have taken place and all receipts submitted. Implementing organisations will request repayments using an invoice (including receipts and a financial report of spend) and the repayments will be carried out during those dates agreed upon in the respective contract. However, there are exceptional circumstances in which we can agree pre-payments, but this should be raised at the earliest opportunity, be clearly justified, and is subject to our agreement.

The activity based budget should be presented in Romanian New Lei (RON) or Pound Sterling (GBP) with costs split by each financial year (the financial year is April to March).

All payments in Romania will be made in RON to a bank account held in Romania. We may be able to make payments in GBP to bank accounts in the UK.

Depending on the quality of the proposals, the British Embassy reserves the right not to grant all or part of the available funds. The Embassy also reserves the right to award a grant of less than the amount requested by the applicants. In such a case, applicants will be asked to increase the amount that they co-finance, to propose other co-financing means or to decrease the total costs without altering the substance of the proposal.

If 2 project proposals are similar to each other, then the embassy reserves the right to select the highest scoring and/or approach the lower scoring bid to identify how they might revise their project to remove duplication.

How to Bid

Our process will consist of a one-stage full bid proposal.

Bids should be completed in English using the Project Proposal template (ODT51.4 KB) and an Activity Based Budget (ODS9.5 KB) should be submitted alongside it. Bids should also include a simple Theory of Change in narrative and/or diagram form, including key assumptions and contextual information. A Theory of Change is a comprehensive description and illustration of how and why a desired change is expected to happen in a particular context. See example of a ToC in diagram form in annex I (PDF626 KB1 page).