LONDON, United Kingdom – Anglican and Catholic leaders in the UK are teaming up to fight modern-day slavery through a free app that helps identify forced labor at car washes.
“Over the last few years we have learned more about the evil of modern slavery and we have begun to understand how it is perpetrated in our communities in plain sight,” said Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, according to the Guardian.
The app, Safe Car Wash, was launched on June 4 by two faith-based anti-slavery groups: The Church of England’s Clewer Initiative and the Catholic Church’s Santa Marta Group. To promote the application, clergy have been encouraged to speak about the app during sermons, school functions, and other public events.
Backed by UK anti-crime authorities, the goal of the app is to help fight the problem of human trafficking at car washes throughout Britain. Users are able to locate car washes via GPS and then provide a quick survey of the employees’ environments.
Safe Car Wash will note possible indicators of modern slavery, such as a lack of safety attire, unsafe environment, poor relationships with management, and signs of employee oppression. The data will be shared with the National Crime Agency and the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority. Users may also be directed to the Modern Slavery Helpline.
According to the UK Home Office, some 10,000-13,000 people were estimated to be potential victims of modern slavery in Britain in 2013.
In 2017, reported cases of forced labor rose by more than a third from the previous year. National Crime Agency Director Will Ker said that while public awareness on modern slavery has grown, there is evidence that the presence of human trafficking in the UK has been underestimated.
In a 2014 report, the National Crime Agency voiced concern over rising exploitation of car wash workers. Reporters of exploitation rose from 30 cases in 2013 to 127 cases in 2014. The agency said a majority of these incidents involve workers from Eastern Europe, especially from Romania and Bulgaria.
Among the abuses identified among car wash workers, the agency identified wrongful fees, improper wages, unsafe worksites, and illegal housing on business grounds.
“Some car wash workers have also reported being charged weekly fees for the rental of the car wash trollies that are required to carry out their job. Many report low rates of daily pay, equating to much less than the national minimum wage,” the organization reported.
In February, Church leaders from more than 30 different countries gathered at the Vatican for a conference on human trafficking and modern-day slavery. The conference was led by the Santa Marta Group, which was established by the Bishops’ Conference for England and Wales.
Pope Francis met with the conference participants on Feb. 9, where he challenged Catholics to reexamine their concern for the people forced into human trafficking and modern slavery.
“God’s cry to Cain, found in the first pages of the Bible – ‘Where is your brother?’ – challenges us to examine seriously the various forms of complicity by which society tolerates, and encourages, particularly with regard to the sex trade, the exploitation of vulnerable men, women and children,” he said.