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Reuniting families across borders

Family separation and people going missing causes untold pain and suffering for thousands of families each year. The humanitarian consequences of separation and people going missing mean a long wait for family reunion or anguish and uncertainty for news about a loved one´s fate and whereabouts.

All people go through tremendous anxiety and suffering when they are separated from family members and do not know when and where they would be able to reunite. Family reunion is an aspiration that many families live with for years as they endure periods of extended separation and uncertainty. Family members of separated persons will not stop trying to reunite with their loved ones, use their resources and may furthermore put themselves and other family members at risk to achieve this.

© Tommy Trenchard/Panos Pictures (IFRC)

This publication aims to increase awareness on the humanitarian consequences of family separation and people going missing due to war, conflict and perilous migratory trails. It further attempts to shed light on the work of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in this field, explains how it provides this service and why it is so important to so many people. This publication is based on the experiences shared by the British Red Cross, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Red Cross EU Office, the Swedish Red Cross and the Swiss Red Cross as part of different initiatives aimed at sharing and developing their engagement and role in protecting, preserving and restoring family links and facilitating family life and family unity. It thus provides the opportunity to get a real understanding of the circumstances of the people concerned, the factors affecting their safety and well-being, as well as the deep physical and psychological scars left on people by family separations and people going missing.

In the context of family separation within Europe, the report highlights the role played by the European National Red Cross Societies in supporting compliance with the family reunification framework that is in place in the European Union (EU). The various challenges to making the fundamental right to family life and family unity a reality for people on the move are identified, and reflections are shared on how the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement could take advantage of its unique position to address this key humanitarian challenge.

Finally, the report outlines a set of key recommendations for policy-makers, Member States and the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement so that the suffering and humanitarian consequences caused by family separation and people going missing can be significantly reduced. Preventing families from being separated and going missing in the first place and broadening the support to the families concerned are practicable actions that can be implemented with the requisite political will, investment and international cooperation between Member States and relevant organisations.

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