In conjunction with the government’s anti-slavery units the London Evening Standard has issued readers with key signs for the public to look for which could indicate enslavement. In particular the Met police’s Modern Slavery and Kidnap Unit and the government’s Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority are currently investigating hand car washes in London where slavery is considered especially likely.

  • Is someone always watching the staff?
  • Do staff have injuries that indicate assault?
  • Do staff seem frightened and/or unwilling to make eye contact?
  • Do staff always wear the same old clothes?
  • Are staff wearing gloves to protect their hands from chemicals?
  • Do staff look starving or neglected? Are the car washes offered for £5 or less?

At four hand car washes in East London staff told officials of sleeping four to a room and working 12-hour days for £3 an hour. Other premises likely to house slaves are nail bars.

Other aspects that tip off inspectors that something could be wrong is if workers live and work at the same address, live in dirty, or overcrowded conditions, have unusual travel arrangements, have no ID documents or, in the case of enslaved girls and women, have a “boyfriend” constantly watching them.

Last month a family of travellers in Nottinghamshire who kept eighteen men as slaves and forced them to pave driveways were jailed for a total of almost 80 years. The Rooney family lured the men, all who had fallen on hard times because of learning difficulties, mental health problems or drink/drug addiction with promises of work and free food and accommodation They were housed in dilapidated caravans on sites in Lincolnshire and fed leftovers. The Rooney family spent the £1.5 million profit from the slavery on cars, holidays and cosmetic surgery and told the court that enslavement was what happened at all traveller’s sites.

It is estimated that in the UK there are 13,000 enslaved, around a third of whom are children

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