Mali / Guinea: Five years on, Issa finds his way home at last

Five years ago, 25-year-old Issa* left Guinea in the hope of finding a better life in Europe. Instead of leading him to the land of his dreams, however, his journey across Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, Senegal and Mali ended in a prison in Mali. When the ICRC's detention visits presented him with an opportunity, Issa asked to be put in touch with his family. A few months later he was back home in Guinea, hugging his uncle.

ICRC employees met Issa during a routine visit to a detention facility in Mali. He had been without news of his loved ones since leaving Guinea five years before, and wanted them to know what had become of him. An ICRC tracing officer suggested writing a Red Cross message, and collected the details needed for finding his uncle – the person the message was for. With this information, and a photo, the search was launched in different districts of Conakry.

Issa's uncle was located in the Gbessia area of the city a month later. He was glad to have news of his nephew, and he also mentioned that Issa suffered from a mental disorder. He was hugely relieved when the ICRC tracing officer told him that the Malian authorities had agreed to release Issa, as his mental problems made prison particularly hard for him. Issa's release was conditional on his going straight back to Guinea and, in view of the circumstances and the state of his health, the ICRC agreed to facilitate his return home.

The ICRC teams in Guinea and Mali arranged to meet at the Kourémalé border post, between the two countries. To reassure Issa, his cousin was there too. The two young men were overjoyed to see one another again, and spent the journey back to Conakry catching up. After three days of travelling, Issa was finally reunited with the uncle he'd written his Red Cross message to. His uncle was so moved he shed tears of relief. The long years of worry and waiting were over and the family was reunited at last, to great rejoicing.


*Name changed to protect his privacy.