Bringing clarity and comfort to families of missing persons

27 August 2015
Bringing clarity and comfort to families of missing persons
Soledad's brother went missing several years ago after he left the family village in Mexico to seek work in the United States. CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC

Disappearances are a reality, whether linked to war, migration or disasters.

They happen for different reasons, but the suffering of the families is the same. So is the need for documentation to provide answers to the agonizing uncertainty – even though finding answers might take a very long time and for some families, there will never be a definitive answer.

There are a host of practical issues which families face. They may be left without a breadwinner, while having to spend their dwindling resources on the search. They may need to confront legal and administrative hurdles. Many also need emotional support as they face feelings of isolation, sadness and marginalization.

On the International Day of the Disappeared, we highlight:

 The right to know: The struggle families face to receive credible information on the fate of missing loved ones.
Story from Sri Lanka  |  Story from Syria
 Economic security: The need for financial support as families try to find new ways of making a living, amid the limbo of dealing with the disappearance of a relative.
Story from Armenia
 Legal and administrative: The need for help to confront the bureaucratic obstacles that arise when a family member is missing but not acknowledged as dead.
Story from Mexico
 Psychosocial: The need for emotional support as families face the anguish of ambiguous loss and try to pursue their lives, in the absence of any answers.
Story from Uganda  |  Story from Azerbaijan
 Commemoration: The way families can remember missing loved ones and pay tribute to their memory.
Story from Peru

The ICRC provides long term support in order to overcome these difficulties and help families regain control of their lives. We also seek to persuade governments and others to put the issue of missing persons on their agenda and do more to help them. More information on the ICRC's work

Helping the families of missing persons

In this video, we meet three people from different corners of the globe, each with a unique story about someone close who has gone missing – a man in Uganda searching for his son, and a woman in Mexico and a woman in Georgia, both looking for their brothers.


Trace the Face: People looking for missing migrants in Europe

Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies across Europe are publishing photos of people looking for their missing relatives, online and in posters, in the hope of reconnecting families. 

Are you looking for a missing family member or loved one? Visit our Restoring family links website.