Detectives from PSNI’s Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Unit along with partners in HMRC, Health and Safety Executive for NI, Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Northern Ireland Water and Department of Communities carried out a multi-agency operation at a hand car wash in the Ballyclare area on Friday, January 31.
Whilst there was no evidence of human trafficking or modern slavery offences at the hand car wash police visited, officers would still appeal to the public to continue to report any concerns they might have.
Operations like this are regularly conducted following concerns raised by the public about potential human trafficking at car washes.
A PSNI spokesperson said: “Police take information like this extremely seriously and where we receive such information we will carry out proactive operations, as they give us the opportunity to assess if any workers are potential victims of trafficking. We also conduct follow-up visits at their homes to check on them again and look at their living conditions, with their consent.
“When we speak to workers away from their managers or the owners of the car washes, the vast majority state they are not working under duress and there is no evidence of them being controlled or held against their will. Many indicate that they are content with their pay and conditions as they feel it is still more than they would otherwise have earned at home.”
The spokesperson added: “There is no doubt that many of these hand car washes are being run as legitimate businesses, working ethically and responsibly and doing their best to comply with all the regulations, although in some instances workers are being paid below the national minimum wage.
“Some of the hand car washes are not complying with health and safety legislation and fail to provide appropriate protective clothing for staff working in cold and wet conditions. In these cases, it is clear the owners are taking advantage of the workers’ situation and their lack of knowledge of the law and their entitlements.
“Anyone who has any concerns at all, contact police on the non-emergency number 101.”