Restoring Family Links – the International Committee of the Red Cross

Restoring contact between families separated by armed conflicts and natural disasters

What
to do if you are looking for a missing relative? Every year, armed
conflicts, other situations of violence and natural disasters leave
countless people seeking news of family members.

Restoring family links means carrying out, in those situations, a range
of activities that aim to prevent separation and disappearance, restore
and maintain contact between family members, and clarify the fate of
persons reported missing. It involves collecting information about
persons who are missing, persons who have died, and vulnerable persons
such as children separated from their families and persons deprived of
their freedom. It also involves tracing persons unaccounted for,
organizing the exchange of family news and the transmission of
documents when normal means of communication have broken down,
organizing family reunifications and repatriations, and issuing travel
documents and attestations.

more about the Red Cross Family Links program:

Who are the separated family members assisted by the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement?

We assist people who have been separated from their family members or
whose relatives are unaccounted for as a result of conflicts,
disasters, migration or other situations requiring a humanitarian
response.

Certain groups of people are particularly vulnerable and have specific
needs that we seek to address. These include children who may find
themselves separated from their parents as a result of armed violence,
arrests, poverty or disasters. Equally vulnerable are elderly people
who may not be able to fend for themselves. Detainees make up yet
another group, and keeping them in touch with their families remains of
utmost importance to us.

What is the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement doing to assist separated family members?

A person's well-being depends to a large extent on the ability to stay
in touch with loved ones, or at least receive information about their
welfare. Receiving news from a loved one or being reunited with one's
family can change everything. It can end the anguish for a
five-year-old and her parents who get back together or help a survivor
of a natural disaster to reassure his family that he is alive.

The Movement has a worldwide Family Links Network comprising the ICRC's
Central Tracing Agency, together with its tracing agencies in ICRC
delegations, and the tracing services of national Red Cross and Red
Crescent Societies around the world.

The role of the Family Links Network is to restore and maintain contact
between family members and to clarify the fate of persons reported
missing. We restore family links by offering separated family members
telephone services, enabling them to exchange written messages,
creating websites adapted to specific contexts, responding to
individual tracing requests and reuniting families. Our work also
involves collecting, managing and forwarding information on dead and
missing persons.

The Movement has long-standing experience and extensive expertise in
restoring family links. Through the Family Links Network, we are able
to provide services across national borders in full transparency and
with the consent of the authorities concerned. Therefore, as a
Movement, we are in a unique position; we have a global network with
the potential to assist people who are separated from their families,
wherever they may be.

For more about the Red Cross and its programs to help families who have been separated, see the following links:

A ten-year strategy to strengthen the restoration of family links
Restoring contact between families separated by armed conflicts and natural disasters

And before you send money to an agency promoting adoptions from Haiti, why not read this statement first and donate money to help restore families who have been separated as a result of the earthquake.

Haiti: helping restore family links severed by the earthquake

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3 thoughts on “Restoring Family Links – the International Committee of the Red Cross

  1. Thank you so much for posting this – I’ve been looking around to try and figure out which agencies actually lead the way post-disaster with services such as this.

  2. I wonder what the ICRC does to reunite children and parents separated by the US government’s immigration policies. Or better yet, prevent them from being separated.

  3. Just one more link on this topic… Except for the lack of Haitian voices, this story (on a U.S. group that tried to take 33 children across the Dominican border with no documentation) seems relatively balanced:
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=123202095
    What would make this story really poignant would be to hear about one or more of these chidren being reunited with family members.
    And KrisP, that is a GREAT question… I know very little about that topic, but someone was telling me that children of immigrants who are deported are often relocated to one of only a couple U.S. group facilities for such kids. Apparently, some of the lawyers and officials involved – believing that the kids are better off in the U.S. – do not make efforts at relinking kids with their families, and any such efforts are hampered by the great distances by which the kids have been moved.

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