Improving the help given to child victims of trafficking: ReACT conference, Jan 2017

Leiden is beautiful. Even in the bone-defying winter chill which welcomed us. It set a tone for the subject matter of the four-day conference we were there to attend: Reinforcing Assistance to Child Victims of Trafficking (ReACT); a partnership project between ECPAT groups in the UK, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. The project aims to:

  • Increase the capacity of representatives (guardians and lawyers) of child victims of trafficking to provide appropriate support
  • Uphold the rights of trafficked children during legal proceedings in key trafficking destination countries. 

The setting perfectly reflected the inspiration and united efforts of all parties to do the best they could to help eradicate child trafficking. The determination of the lawyers and guardians shined as brightly as the sun on the icy canals. 

The conference heard from a number of speakers on the themes of child protection across borders, identification of children who may have been trafficked, barriers to identification, children trafficked for criminal exploitation, temporary or durable solutions, the role of the guardian, role of the lawyer, the need for multi-agency working practices and representation of and communication with trafficked children, the latter presented by our Kalvir Kaur. 

Workshops around a given scenario following each theme provided a fascinating opportunity to better understand the working practices of each member state and to reflect on our own practice.(For example the continued use of bone and dental x-rays in age dispute cases in some member states). The conference itself gave us an invaluable chance to build relationships with our European counterparts. 

Early victim identification, durable solutions and a multi-agency child protection response emerged as key themes. The next step in this exciting project is for the trainers who were present to share the information and knowledge that came out of the conference in their own countries, including the report ‘Better support, better protection: Steps lawyers and guardians can take to better identify and protect trafficked children’. 

ATLEU hopes that cross state co-operation with partners continues to strengthen the fight against this serious, abhorrent crime against children. 

The conference was from 17 – 20 January 2017 Leiden, Netherlands.