Reflections on the International Day of the Disappeared

Story by Jon Dillon, National Headquarters, Outreach and Casework Associate


Even before working with the Restoring Family Links team at the American Red Cross, I was passionate about refugee and migrant issues. Yet while I spent a significant amount of hours studying these topics and advocating for laws to end abuses such as human trafficking, I was largely unaware of the movement and international obligation to reconnect families separated by conflict, disaster, international migration, and other humanitarian crises. This has changed over the course of the summer as I have had the opportunity to become passionate about and support American Red Cross chapters in their efforts to restore family links. As this week commemorates the International Day of the Disappeared, it creates time for reflection on the important work done globally to locate the lost and reunite families.

The International Day of the Disappeared was originally established to draw attention to those whose detention or execution went undocumented, leaving family members and legal representatives unaware of their loved one’s location. As the realities of conflict and migration (forced or voluntary) often lead to similar instances of family separation whereby the location of one or more family members is unknown, the day has come to commemorate all of those suffering from the emotional and psychological pain of separation. Restoring Family Links is a division of the Red Cross Red Crescent established to aid in finding disappeared persons and reconnect them with family.

Over the past few months, I have heard the despair of people separated from their loved ones and the joy that comes with their reunion. Even when a physical reunion is not yet possible, just receiving a written message or a phone call can bring back the peace of knowing a loved one’s location and state of being. These are the stories that underscore the importance of observing the International Day of the Disappeared and supporting the work of the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Cross National Societies to find missing persons and reconnect them with their family.

Today, please show your support by making the empty frame used on this blog your profile picture on Facebook and elsewhere as a reminder to the public of the International Day of the Disappeared. To learn more about the Day and the great work of organizations to reconnect separated families, please visit the following websites and read reconnection stories located in this blog:

International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearances

United Nations International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances

International Committee of the Red Cross Missing Persons

Amnesty International International Day of the Disappeared

Videos from the ICRC and other National Societies of the International Day of the Disappeared

Stories for International Day of the Disappeared from the British Red Cross