“My name is Cristiano and I am 15. In the past some of the people I met wanted to cause me harm or make money from me. I was told a lot of lies and made to feel very scared. Now as I went through all of this, I can give you some advice.”

Cristiano’s story is not unique. To give children like him every chance of putting their lives back together, ECPAT Belgium has launched REACT – Reinforcing Assistance for Child Victims of Trafficking.

The REACT project aims to guarantee children who may have been victims of trafficking effective access to justice and the right to be protected in legal procedures.

Among other things, the project consists of an informative and child-friendly video and leaflet. These materials were developed in close collaboration with children and are just a selection of materials to let children on the move know about their rights.

The video and leaflet contain information children who had made the journey previously said they would have found useful when entering a country for the first time. This included what their rights are, what public services they are allowed to use and useful contacts – along with plenty more information.

Children who may have been trafficked against their will also need to know about the legal proceedings they could be involved in, which the video explains. It also shows how they are entitled to a guardian, the importance of their personal documents and how they could be medically examined to assess their age. Children are also told how they will not have to pay for access to a lawyer or other public services and how long the process will take.

The role of police, judges, social workers, doctors and lawyers is explained to children in the video – people who may seem strange to kids arriving in a strange country after an often terrifying ordeal. Most importantly, the fact all children have the right to help regardless of their nationality is explained, so hopefully no one slips through the net.

On the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, it is imperative to recognise the role projects such as REACT play in helping children recover from the experience of being trafficked, and for bringing traffickers to justice. Such projects help to put lives back on track, and stop in their tracks those looking to exploit some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

The REACT video in different languages is available here.

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