When Jalal* first his heard son's voice on the phone after eight months of being apart, he broke down in tears.
"I had wanted to give my family a better, safer life. But on the way to Europe, my son Ahmed and I were separated," recounted Jalal. "After arriving in Turkey in June 2014, my son left with the first group of migrants for Bulgaria and onwards to Germany. I was meant to follow them, but somehow the group I was to travel with were unable to complete the voyage. I was left stranded in Turkey."
Jalal waited for weeks hoping to hear any news of Ahmed. Unfortunately no news ever came, so sadly Jalal left Turkey and travelled to Pakistan.
The fact that I did not know anything about the fate of my son was killing me.
Amidst despair, one day Jalal was told by a friend to enquire at the Red Cross office as they were known to help find lost family members. In February 2015, Jalal visited the ICRC office in Peshawar and requested assistance to locate his son. Staff passed this request to the Turkish, Bulgarian and German Red Cross / Red Crescent Societies to help trace Ahmed in their respective countries.
Later that day German Red Cross responded – an Afghan refugee had approached them some time ago with similar story of events and who had lost his family en route to Germany. His photo was already posted on the Restoring Family Links website, the online tracing platform of the ICRC, so Jalal was quickly called back to the ICRC office to verify if this was his son. The moment Jalal saw the photo, he was overjoyed. "He is Ahmad! My Son!'' Jalal cried.
Every year, thousands of separated families restore contact with missing or lost loved ones through a unique global network composed of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the National Red Cross / Red Crescent Societies worldwide. For more information, visit: www.familylinks.icrc.org.
(*) Name has been changed