The findings of the Evening Standard’s Slaves On Our Streets investigation have been presented to the Pope.
Pope Francis was urged to renew pressure on governments as he was handed the report by the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, at the Vatican.
The Cardinal had just chaired a conference of the Santa Marta Group, which brings together police and clergy to collaborate on countering human trafficking and support survivors.
He said: “We ask you, Holy Father, to continue to call governments to a truly humane response to the victims and survivors of human trafficking in the support and protection they provide; to urge financial and business institutions to do all they can to eliminate slavery and its profits from their transactions; and to encourage all people of good will to become more alert to the presence of slave labour.”
Among those at the Santa Marta Conference were Met Commissioner Cressida Dick, the Cardinal of Myanmar, religious sisters from Nigeria, and the UK Anti-Slavery Commissioner Kevin Hyland.
Pope Francis has called modern slavery a “wound on the body of contemporary society”. As he thanked the group for its commitment, he talked of the need to raise public awareness.
“Initiatives to combat human trafficking, while concretely aimed at dismantling criminal structures, must increasingly consider broader issues associated with the responsible use of technology and the communications media,” he said.
“The Church is grateful for every effort made to bring the balm of God’s mercy to the suffering.”
Pope Francis said modern slavery was “far more widespread than previously imagined, even to our scandal and shame, within the most prosperous of our societies”.
Ms Dick said of the Standard’s investigation: “It has been very powerful. To have something that is vivid, authentic and authoritative over a period of weeks and months, not just the odd article, I think has raised consciousness hugely.”