The Archbishops of Canterbury and Westminster have launched an ecumenical app which allows users to report car washes if they think they are employing slave workers. The Bishop of Derby, who ‘leads on modern slavery’ for the Church of England, spoke of people who had been ‘kept in conditions like animals’ and even of some whose shoes had become melded to their feet. I would not be surprised if abuse does take place. Whenever I have my car washed in this way (about once a year), I ask the workers where they come from and am amazed by the variety of countries named, though perhaps Albania predominates. The presence of a watchful boss is usually very noticeable. The app may help catch bad actors. But it strikes me how easily this story of compassion could have been presented in the opposite manner. Suppose that, say, Ukip, had started just such an app, the accusation would immediately have been made that it was designed to persecute law-abiding, hard-working immigrants and that — given the background of many of the workers involved — it was Islamophobic. One of many problems with mass immigration is that it makes people (quite often rightly) suspicious about the bona fides of those in their midst. The churches, with the best motives, are inviting us to be snoopers.
This is an extract from Charles Moore’s Spectator Notes, which appears in this week’s magazine