Restoring Family Links in the Middle East and North Africa

When conflict, disaster or migration separate people, the Red Cross and Red Crescent is there to help. As we launch familylinks.icrc.org in Arabic, we're highlighting the efforts of the ICRC and National Societies in the region to restore links between separated family members.

The boundaries and names shown, and the designations used on this map do not imply official endorsement or acceptance by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Content

  • Algeria

    Restoring Family Links in Algeria

    A Congolese family reunited in Paris thanks to the joint efforts of the French Red Cross and the ICRC in Algeria.

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    A Congolese family reunited in Paris thanks to the joint efforts of the French Red Cross and the ICRC in Algeria.

    © French Red Cross

    • Most of the beneficiaries of Restoring Family Links services in Algeria are either foreigners who have been detained or people separated from their families by conflict, some of whom are unaccompanied minors.
    • In 2014, the ICRC collected 78 Red Cross Messages and distributed 109, and exchanged 299 "salamats" (short oral messages) between foreigners in Algerian prisons and their families.
    • Working with the Algerian Red Crescent, the ICRC is currently handling 34 tracing requests from neighbouring countries and countries elsewhere in Africa. The ICRC is also searching in Côte d'Ivoire, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Guinea for relatives of migrants currently in Algeria. In 2014, it successfully located 15 people, including one unaccompanied minor.
    • The families of two Algerians detained in Guantanamo have been able to make 16 video-telephone calls facilitated by the Algerian Red Crescent. Red Cross messages are exchanged through the ICRC and the detainees also receive family food parcels. The Algerian Red Crescent helped exchange 61 Red Cross messages, 68 Ramadan cards and 27 salamats between other Algerian nationals detained abroad and their families, working in cooperation with the ICRC.
  • Egypt

    Restoring Family Links in Egypt

    An Egyptian Red Crescent volunteer helps a man who has just returned from Libya to call his family in 2015.

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    An Egyptian Red Crescent volunteer helps a man who has just returned from Libya to call his family in 2015.

    © Egyptian Red Crescent

    • The Egyptian Red Crescent Society helps Egyptian nationals restore contact with family members when they lose touch for reasons other than a conflict. The ICRC offers these services to refugees and migrants and to the families of Egyptian nationals who have been detained abroad or are living in conflict areas.
    • The Egyptian Red Crescent Society is currently handling 50 tracing requests and requests for welfare reports, while the ICRC is handling 435 tracing requests. In 2014, the ICRC located 78 people, working with other National Societies, and seven families were reunited.
    • In 2013 and 2014, the Egyptian Red Crescent Society facilitated 6,540 phone calls for third-country nationals stranded at Salloum, on the Libyan-Egyptian border. More recently, the Society assisted Egyptian nationals returning from Libya. In February and March 2015, the Egyptian Red Crescent facilitated 4,654 phone calls for people arriving at Cairo airport.
    • In 2014, the ICRC facilitated 395 phone calls and 21 video calls, exchanged 19 "salamats" (oral messages), collected 17 Red Cross messages and distributed 18.
    • The ICRC issues an average of 100 ICRC Travel Documents every month to help people resettle outside Egypt, mainly in the USA, Canada and Australia.
  • Iraq

    Restoring Family Links in Iraq

    Sakna Mohammad went with her two grandchildren and their mother to Nassiriya prison to visit her son, Abdul Sattar.

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    Sakna Mohammad went with her two grandchildren and their mother to Nassiriya prison to visit her son, Abdul Sattar.

    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / S. Baqer

     

    The ICRC works with the Iraqi Red Crescent Society to help families separated by conflict and violence restore and maintain contact through Red Cross messages, phone calls and other means.

    We help refugees and others displaced by the recent violence to trace missing relatives and those thought to have been arrested or killed.

    In 2014, the ICRC:

    • exchanged over 6,400 Red Cross messages between detainees and their families and made over 10,000 phone calls to families informing them that their detained relatives were alive and well;
    • opened 540 tracing cases regarding people who had disappeared or were thought to have been arrested or killed;
    • issued 317 travel documents to refugees in Iraq who had been granted resettlement in third countries.

    The ICRC is helping the Iraqi authorities clarify the fate of people missing since the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war and the 1990-1991 Gulf War. Our role includes chairing two tripartite mechanisms: one involving Iraq and Iran, the other Iraq and Kuwait. We facilitate joint excavation missions and provide technical advice, training and equipment.

    A total of 388 sets of remains were repatriated between January and June 2014 – 369 Iranian and 19 Iraqi.

    The ICRC has interviewed over 170 families of missing persons across all governorates in Iraq, to find out what they need.

  • Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory

    Restoring Family Links in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory

    A member of ICRC staff checks a woman's travel documents before she leaves Gaza to be reunited with her daughter in Amman, Jordan.

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    A member of ICRC staff checks a woman's travel documents before she leaves Gaza to be reunited with her daughter in Amman, Jordan.

    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / A.Muhanna

     

    In 2013 and 2014, 6,826 detainees received visits under the ICRC family visits programme.

    In this period, the ICRC:

    • organized 106,306 family visits;
    • helped transport 220,202 family members taking part in these visits;
    • helped exchange 10,616 "salamats" (short oral messages) between detainees and their families;
    • collected and distributed just under 5,000 Red Cross messages between detainees in Israeli prisons and their families in the occupied territory.

    Due to the restrictions on movement between Gaza and the West Bank, the ICRC arranges family visits for visually impaired people who live or study in the West Bank and have families in Gaza. In 2014, we organized seven such visits.

  • Jordan

    Restoring Family Links in Jordan

    A Syrian family in Zaatari Camp prepares to contact their relatives by phone through a service offered jointly by the ICRC and the Jordanian Red Crescent.

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    A Syrian family in Zaatari Camp prepares to contact their relatives by phone through a service offered jointly by the ICRC and the Jordanian Red Crescent.

    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / A. Fattah

     

    • Working with the Jordan Red Crescent Society, the ICRC has helped around 37,000 Syrian refugees in Al-Zaatari and Al-Azraq camps restore contact with family members in Syria and elsewhere by making international telephone calls available to them.
    • A 14-year-old Syrian girl was reunited with her family in Egypt and a vulnerable Syrian man living in Lebanon was reunited with his family in Jordan.
    • The ICRC issued 720 travel documents to refugees granted resettlement in third countries.
    • People in Jordan and relatives detained in Jordan or abroad exchanged a total of 575 Red Cross messages.
  • Kuwait

    Restoring Family Links in Kuwait and the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council

    Volunteers from the Kuwait Red Crescent take part in a group exercise during Restoring Family Links training.

    Restoring family links in ...

     

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    Volunteers from the Kuwait Red Crescent take part in a group exercise during Restoring Family Links training.

    © Kuwait Red Crescent Society

     

    The ICRC Kuwait Regional Delegation covering the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) works with the Red Crescent Societies of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Restoring Family Links services are provided in relation to migration, conflict and natural disaster. Detainees in these countries or having families in these countries also benefit from Restoring Family Links activities.

    In 2014:

    • 109 requests from families to search for missing relatives were followed up, 10 families were able to re-establish contact with missing relatives thanks to action by the Red Crescent and the ICRC;
    • 273 Red Cross messages were collected and 194 distributed;
    • 193 video calls and phone calls were facilitated between detainees abroad, mainly in Guantanamo Bay, and their families in GCC;
    • 77 "salamats" (oral messages) were transmitted from detainees inside or outside GCC to their families;
    • the ICRC issued 18 Travel Documents to allow refugees or stateless persons to return home or resettle in a third country and issued 10,780 attestations of detention to former detainees;

    The ICRC and the National Red Crescent Societies organizes joint training sessions for staff and volunteers. Between 2013 and 2015, six such workshops were conducted with the Red Crescent from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain to strengthen their capacity to provide Restoring Family Links services.

  • Lebanon

    Restoring Family Links in Lebanon

    Families of missing persons in Saida meet for the first time during an ICRC information session.

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    Families of missing persons in Saida meet for the first time during an ICRC information session.

    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / M. Matar

     

    • Between January 2014 and March 2015, 499 Red Cross messages were exchanged, mainly between detainees in Lebanon or abroad and their families. The ICRC also exchanged 1,888 "salamats" (short oral messages) between detainees and their families.
    • The ICRC helped 37 stateless persons of Kuwaiti origin (Bedoon) who had fled Syria into Lebanon to regularize their situation with the Lebanese authorities.
    • 39 Syrian and Palestinian refugees were able to join their families abroad thanks to travel documents issued by the ICRC in Beirut. At the request of the ICRC, the Lebanese authorities allowed 83 refugees to pass through Lebanon using an ICRC travel document on their way to resettlement abroad.
    • The families of 1,239 people contacted the ICRC for help tracing missing relatives in other countries, mainly Syria.
    • Since April 2012, the ICRC has interviewed 1,837 families of people missing in connection with conflict in Lebanon. The aim is to collect information on these missing persons that will help clarify their fate and whereabouts. In 2014, the ICRC collected the names of more than 600 additional missing persons.
    • In December 2014, the ICRC held a meeting in Saida with the families of missing persons. A number of organizations presented their services, and families have now started using some of those services.
    • The ICRC trained 55 volunteers from the Lebanese Red Cross on Restoring Family Links, to help them deal with the increasing number of requests resulting from migration and the Syrian conflict.
  • Libya

    Restoring Family Links in Libya

    A man is reunited with his wife in Benghazi harbour on the arrival of an ICRC-chartered ship that had transferred people from Tripoli who were separated from their families by the 2011 conflict.

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    A man is reunited with his wife in Benghazi harbour on the arrival of an ICRC-chartered ship that had transferred people from Tripoli who were separated from their families by the 2011 conflict.

    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / R. Waudo

     

    In 2014, the ICRC:

    • collected 62 Red Cross messages from civilians and detainees (including migrants) and distributed 32;
    • exchanged 35 "salamats" (short oral messages) between detainees and their families;
    • facilitated 1,486 phone calls to maintain family links, mostly for migrants;
    • issued six ICRC travel documents for people without documentation, most of whom were due to be resettled in third countries but could not obtain travel documents through the normal channels;
    • organized regular phone calls between Libyans and their relatives detained in Guantanamo or Afghanistan;
    • handled 56 requests to locate missing persons.
  • Mauritania

    Restoring Family Links in Mauritania

    A young boy with a member of ICRC staff near the Malian/Mauritanian border before being reunited with his family in Mali after two years of separation.

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    A young boy with a member of ICRC staff near the Malian/Mauritanian border before being reunited with his family in Mali after two years of separation.

    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / A. Kane

     

    The ICRC works with the Mauritanian Red Crescent to provide Restoring Family Links services, mainly in Bassikonou on the border with Mali, where Mbera Refugee Camp for Malian refugees is situated. We are also helping the National Society develop its RFL services.

    Between 2013 and 2014:

    • 217 Red Cross messages were collected and 197 distributed to help separated family members (including detainees and unaccompanied children) restore contact.
    • 33 phone calls were facilitated, including 12 between families and their relatives detained in Guantanamo.
    • The ICRC conveyed 95 short "salamats" (short oral messages) between detainees and their families.
    • The ICRC and the Mauritanian Red Crescent received 112 requests to locate missing relatives, and were able to trace 40 people.
    • 18 separated children were registered, of whom the ICRC reunited three with their families, while 14 found their parents through other means.
    • The ICRC notified 76 foreign detainees to their embassies.
  • Morocco

    Restoring Family Links in Morocco

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    Moroccan Red Crescent volunteers pose for a group photo after an RLF training session.

     

    • The ICRC works with the Moroccan Red Crescent to provide Restoring Family Links services and to help strengthen the National Society’s capacity in this area.
    • The Moroccan Red Crescent volunteer network is currently handling 10 tracing requests from abroad.
    • In 2014, the ICRC helped exchange 10 Red Cross messages and "salamats" (short oral messages) between Moroccan prisoners abroad and their families in Morocco.
    • Relatives of people detained in Guantanamo and in Afghanistan were able to maintain contact through six video telephone calls facilitated by the ICRC.
    • In 2014, the Moroccan Red Crescent carried out an assessment of Restoring Family Links needs in the north of the country with the support of the ICRC. The assessment was extended to other parts of Morocco in 2015. As well as identifying the need for RFL services, this process was an opportunity to boost the ability of the Moroccan Red Crescent to meet those needs.
  • Syria

    Restoring Family Links in Syria

    Syrian women hold up photos of their missing relatives.

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    Syrian women hold up photos of their missing relatives.

    © Reuters

    Since the beginning of the crisis in 2011, the ICRC has:

    • received over 5,000 requests to help trace people with whom their families had lost contact due to the conflict; more than 4,300 of them are believed to be detained;
    • issued more than 400 travel documents for the resettlement abroad of people who could not obtain other official travel documents;
    • helped reunite six children and vulnerable people with family members abroad, mainly in Egypt.

    In 2014, the ICRC:

    • exchanged over 400 "salamats" (short oral messages) between detainees in Syria and abroad and their families, plus approximately 70 Red Cross messages;
    • received more than 700 requests at its delegation in Damascus regarding detention, RFL and similar matters;
    • acted as a neutral intermediary to facilitate the crossing of over 60 students from the occupied Golan to Damascus and vice versa.
  • Tunisia

    Restoring Family Links in Tunisia

    A man from Bangladesh who has fled the conflict in Libya calls his family from Choucha Camp, near the Libyan border, with the help of a Tunisian Red Crescent volunteer.

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    A man from Bangladesh who has fled the conflict in Libya calls his family from Choucha Camp, near the Libyan border, with the help of a Tunisian Red Crescent volunteer.

    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / S. Beltifa

     

    In 2013 and 2014, the ICRC:

    • received 103 tracing requests from families looking for relatives who had gone abroad and from whom they had received no news;
    • collected 174 "salamats" (short oral messages) from detainees visited by the organization and passed them on to their families abroad.

    In 2014, the ICRC:

    • organized 26 video calls between Tunisian families and their relatives detained in Guantanamo and Afghanistan;
    • worked with the Tunisian Red Crescent to provide 255 phone calls for migrants rescued by the Tunisian coastguard, enabling them to restore contact with their families.
    • In early 2015, the ICRC and the Tunisian Red Crescent provided 72 such calls.
  • Yemen

    Restoring Family Links in Yemen

    Before the crisis started, ICRC tracing officer Mohamed Hersi met regularly with Somali nationals seeking refuge in Sana'a, to update them on the search for their relatives and gather news from the elders in the group.

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    Before the crisis started, ICRC tracing officer Mohamed Hersi met regularly with Somali nationals seeking refuge in Sana'a, to update them on the search for their relatives and gather news from the elders in the group.

    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / C. Martin-Chico

     

    In 2014, the ICRC:

    • collected over 4,000 Red Cross messages from civilians and detainees, including migrants, and distributed over 2,500;
    • exchanged 35 "salamats" (short oral messages) between detainees and their families;
    • facilitated 281 telephone calls between people in Yemen and detained relatives abroad, mainly in Guantanamo;
    • received 147 requests from people in Yemen to search for missing relatives, including people who had possibly been detained;
    • collected the names of 888 people sought by their Somali families living in Yemen, for broadcasting on a special BBC radio programme and publication on familylinks.icrc.org.