This Week in Restoring Family Links: 11/2/16-11/3/16

This Week in Restoring Family Links: 11/2/16-11/3/16

Italy: The Italian Red Cross is working to provide aid after the strongest earthquake to take place in Italy since 1986. It was found that over 40,000 people had to leave their homes and many buildings are now in ruins. The Italian Red Cross has been working to provide psychological support as well as food and medical care to those affected.

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Drawn Together: The Plight of the Missing

Drawn Together: The Plight of the Missing

For a few hours there will be news stories about the 'missing'. Tragic stories, testimony from different parts of the world. Then the dust will settle, the tears will dry and the world will carry on. Just like every year.

But for thousands and thousands of families who have lost someone, the tears will not dry and they will not just carry on. They will try to continue living with the pain, of the searing uncertainty, of not knowing what happened to their loved ones.

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Ecuador earthquake: Reuniting families

Stories and videos are from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) 

The earthquake that rocked Ecuador on April 16th caused great uncertainty and anguish among the population. Even though telephone services were re-established within a few hours, many people had no news from their loved ones. The Ecuadorian and Colombian Red Cross received search requests and volunteers immediately began following up each and every request. This video shows how the Red Cross works to bring families back together after natural disasters.

Red Cross Gave Me Hope: Missing, Not Forgotten

“The last time he called us, my son Arcesio* said that he was coming to see us,” said Ancízar Osorio in a faltering voice. That was eight years ago.

In Osorio’s country of Colombia, disappearances are a tragic normality; some 68,000 people are currently missing. Worldwide, hundreds of thousands of people have disappeared as a consequence of armed conflict, natural disaster or migration. For those left behind facing a future uncertainty, the Red Cross is often their last hope for answers.

“When people disappear, there are two kinds of victims,” said Marianne Pecassou, who heads the activities carried out by the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) for missing persons and their families. “The individuals who have gone missing and their families, torn between despair and hope, living with uncertainty and pain, waiting for news, sometimes for decades.”

The Osorio family searched desperately for their son for years. Finally, after researching old photographs and working with the Red Cross, they learned of his fate. Still, although his family is certain of his death and burial town, they have been unable to find the exact location where his mortal remains lie.

The suffering of the Osorio family is all too familiar to Rubiela, also living in Colombia. When her son Jáder was 16, he decided to join an armed group in order to earn money for his education. He told his mother that he would be back in a month. That was the last time that she saw him alive.

After three years of prolonged agony, she enlisted the help of the Red Cross and finally was able to learn her son’s fate and bury his body.

In Colombia and elsewhere, the plight of the disappeared and their families has been a constant concern of the Red Cross. Currently, it is attempting to establish the fate and whereabouts of more than 52,000 people worldwide.

The Red Cross offers guidance to families and authorities about searching for missing persons and works through its Restoring Family Links program to help reconnect those separated by war or natural disaster. Besides working directly with families of the missing, the organization instructs parties to conflict and other armed groups about the rules prohibiting the concealment of information regarding missing persons.

“I was nearly desperate,” Rubiela said of searching for her son. “So much suspense was driving me crazy. Now I know where my boy is. If it had not been for the Red Cross, I would still have been looking for him.”

*All names in this article have been changed to protect victims’ safety.

This Week in Restoring Family Links News 8/23/2014-8/29/2014

Do you follow @intlfamilylinks (Restoring Family Links’ account) on Twitter? See an interesting article but just don’t have the time to read it? “This Week in RFL News” is a weekly blog segment that highlights and summarizes some of the news items posted by RFL’s twitter.

International Day of the Disappeared: It’s rare that I only cover one news item that was shared on social media during the week, but this is an extraordinarily important topic! International Day of the Disappeared is recognized every year on August 30th. It is a day set aside to draw attention to those who have gone missing because of conflict, disaster, and migration; and the work of organizations around the world to learn their fate and support families of the missing. Its impetus came the work of Latin American organizations actively working against enforced disappearances in the region, but has grown to honor those who have gone missing around the globe, from conflicts in the Western Balkans to disasters in the Philippines.

Many organizations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), now work on issues of the missing. International humanitarian law dictates that states are obliged to clarify the fate or whereabouts of people who have gone missing. The ICRC supports this work in many places around globe, from Colombia, to the former Yugoslavia and Sri Lanka.

Due to the unique circumstances in which people go missing, their work varies from place to place. In Colombia, the ICRC works to trace those who have gone missing as well as improve national systems for identifying remains found in anonymous gravesites. In Bosnia, they have helped advocate for legal mechanisms to honor families of the missing. Regardless of their level of involvement in uncovering the fate of the disappeared themselves, the ICRC works to support and advocate on behalf of families of the missing.

Other Red Cross Red Crescent societies also work on issues of the missing through the Restoring Family Links program. The Canadian Red Cross often works with its refugee population to search for loved ones who went missing while fleeing conflict in their home nation. The American Red Cross and its partner organizations work with families of missing migrants to determine the fate of those who have disappeared within the US-Mexico borderlands.

Outside of the Red Cross Movement, many other organizations and family associations advocate on behalf of the missing. In Turkmenistan, families continue to pressure their government to release information concerning the fate of people disappeared over ten years ago. Similarly in Kashmir, protests have been organized around the International Day of the Disappeared to learn the fate of those who have gone missing in relation to conflict in the region.

And the stories shared here are just a drop in the bucket. For this year’s day of recognition, please take the time to learn more about issues of the missing and the incredible work being done to support families who continue to suffer from not knowing the fate of their loves ones.

More resources:

Amnesty International’s work against enforced disappearance

International Commission on Missing Persons work with governments on issues of the missing

Read about all of ICRC’s work on missing persons