Topics: Worldwide, Migrant and Refugee Services
September 10, 2012
Red Cross organizations honour missing persons with International Day of the Disappeared

One of the most devastating consequences of armed conflict is the separation of family members. The Canadian Red Cross, along with the ICRC and sister Red Cross Societies, strive to reunite families with services offered by Restoring Family Links.

From tracing missing family members to Red Cross Messages, which helps families stay in touch when normal postal services have been interrupted due to violence, natural disasters or other humanitarian situations, the Red Cross works diligently to help families reconnect.

Each year on August 30, the Red Cross highlights the important issue of family separation with International Day of the Disappeared. By drawing attention to the plights of individuals unable to be located and those left behind, the Movement aims to drive awareness on a global scale.

Just how are missing persons deemed missing? The ICRC considers a person to be missing if he or she can't be reached by family members due to armed conflict or internal violence in a region and no reliable information exists about his or her whereabouts.

The fates of those unaccounted for can vary. While every person who is missing has a tragic tale all their own, many suffer as a result of being captured, abducted or arrested as civilians in regions torn apart by violence. Prisoners are often held in secret locations, and others may be improperly buried in unmarked graves. Equally, many more may choose to flee an area during times of civil unrest but may be unreachable. 

The scars that this kind of loss leaves behind can be irreparable for families, which is why International Day of the Disappeared is so significant for driving this cause. In addition to the ICRC's 2006 International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which made all state parties responsible for accounting for all missing persons internationally, the event is one of many ways intended to highlight this situation.

The organizations have especially tried to reach out in areas that have been stricken by violence like Libya, Georgia and Nepal. By creating support networks for families in these regions that are designed to help heal social, economic and, above all, emotional issues emerging from the disappearance of a loved one, the ICRC works to honour the memories of those lost and give communities the tools needed to move forward.

The events that honor the day take place throughout the world, yet the empathetic and humanitarian spirit of all those involved with it surpasses national borders and unites participants under one common cause.

To learn more about how you can lend your energies to this effort cause, or provide support for the Canadian Red Cross as it joins with the ICRC for this event, please visit the website or your local Red Cross office.