On International Day of the Disappeared we pause to reflect on the many people who are missing as a result of war, conflict, disaster or migration.
Tuesday August 30, 2016
Red Cross volunteers register migrants searching for loved ones in refugee camps across Europe. (Photo: Charlotte Hyest / IFRC)
This year the UNHCR reports record numbers of people being forcibly displaced from their homes due to ongoing conflict, persecution, risk of violence.
International Day of the Disappeared, marked on 30 August each year, is also a time to remember the families affected by the disappearance of their loved ones.
"Not knowing the fate of a missing loved one is an incredibly painful reality for so many people today," says Megan Goodwin, National Program Coordinator of Australian Red Cross' International Tracing Service.
"As people are forced to leave their homes in search of safety, they often lose contact with their loved ones. The Red Cross International Tracing Services tries to put people back in touch," she says.
Red Cross' tracing service is unique. Staff and volunteers help people find lost loved ones, re-establish contact, exchange family news and clarify the fate of the missing. It's a free service and helps families that have been separated by war, conflict, disaster or migration.
"Red Cross is a worldwide movement, working in 190 countries. Our tracing service here in Australia is part of an international network which helps us locate people around the world. Red Cross can also access places others can't - detention facilities and prisons, for instance," says Goodwin.
"In the past year alone in Australia we've been working with the anxious families of more than 1850 people who are registered as missing," she says. "And these are just the ones we know about, no doubt there are thousands more people and families out there who've yet to come forward seeking help."
"For some it's a matter of closure, being able to put to rest the grief and the uncertainty of not knowing," she continues. "And that's why we mark International Day of the Disappeared, to recognise and remember those who are missing and the impact this has on their loved ones."
For more information about Red Cross' work reconnecting families and clarifying the fate of the missing visit redcross.org.au/tracing