Every year, armed conflict, natural hazards, and migration leave thousands of people in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. In the midst of such emergencies, families are separated and are left with no knowledge of their loved ones’ wellbeing or whereabouts.
For affected family members, their primary need is restoring family links; this is oftentimes more important to the individual than receiving relief assistance. Moreover, in an increasingly “global village,” the affected individuals are from various nationalities, with distant family members eager for news of family members.
The ICRC works in partnership with Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies around the world to locate people and put them back into contact with their relatives. This work includes looking for family members, restoring contact, reuniting families and seeking to clarify the fate of those who remain missing.
A simple 60-second video that helps explain how the ICRC Family Links website and National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies can help families find a missing relative.
What do I need to know?
Restoring family links is a broad range of activities aimed to prevent separation and disappearance, restore and maintain contact between family members, reunite families, and clarify what happened to persons reported missing.
In a context of armed conflict or other situations of violence, the ICRC generally already has an office in the country concerned or will rapidly seek to establish a delegation there. The ICRC will take action to restore family links to the extent possible, working in cooperation with the National Society of the country in question.
When a natural or man-made disaster strikes or in other situations of need, the National Society of the country concerned will act either on its own or, if necessary, with the support of the ICRC. When families are separated across international borders, the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies of several countries, often together with the ICRC, work together to help restore family links.
A unique strength of the Family Links Network (FLN) is its ability to work with staff and volunteers in the local area all around the world, respecting culture, religion, society, language and the particular needs of the people requiring help. ICRC always bears in mind the need to protect sensitive personal information. Any information about the person who is looking for his/her relative (the enquirer) or the sought person is only published or shared with other organizations or the authorities:
- with the consent of the enquirer;
- for a clear humanitarian purpose; and
- when it is in the best interest of the sought person.
If the sought person does not want to respond to a Tracing Request, ICRC respects that decision.
Looking for a person
When a family member has lost contact with a relative, the family member (enquirer) can submit a formal tracing request, which is usually completed by a member of the ICRC or National Society during an interview with the enquirer. The tracing process involves activities such as checking public records, contacting relatives and neighbors, visiting addresses, or consulting various organizations.
With the informed consent of the enquirer and only when it is in the best interest of the sought person, FLN may submit the tracing request to the authorities or broadcast details of the sought person in public media in order to acquire more information.
During large-scale emergencies, ICRC also launches an online tracing service which individuals can access to look for information and names of their family members and/or to publish related details on the webpage.
Source: See more at the ICRC Family Links website
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