Unity: Together for Humanity

Red Cross worker Nieves Alonso is helping migrants reconnect with families in the Restoring Family Links tent at an accommodation camp in Sentilj, Slovenia, close to the Austrian border. John Engedal Nissen, IFRC

Red Cross worker Nieves Alonso is helping migrants reconnect with families in the Restoring Family Links tent at an accommodation camp in Sentilj, Slovenia, close to the Austrian border. John Engedal Nissen, IFRC

The Red Cross Red Crescent Fundamental Principle of Unity can seem simple by name, but complex by definition. At first glance, one may think it urges for cooperation and collaboration between and across the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement. That bi/multi-lateral unity is actually enshrined in the Fundamental Principle of Universality. The Red Cross looks at Unity on an individual level - that there is no more than one society in any given country, that a national society is comprised of and serves everyone in that country regardless of race, gender, political opinion, etc., and that a national society's services are available throughout the territory of its country.

A great example of Unity is the work being done in Europe currently to address the refugee crisis by individual Red Cross societies. They work to meet the needs of those in transit throughout their nation, regardless of who they are. The following story highlights the reconnecting families work of the Red Cross in Slovenia for refugees.

By John Engedal Nissen, IFRC

Round, black glasses, a smile and a chunky brown beard. This is one of the faces that greet many people in a small green tent in an area where thousands of migrants wait to cross the Austrian border just 1km away. Every day, Dominik Raduha, 26, and other volunteers with the Slovenian Red Cross, help people reconnect with their families who they may have lost track with while moving through the Balkans.

“They feel hopeless when they come, so first of all we try to assure them that there is still hope and explain how we  can help them find their family again,” he says.

Wi-Fi and phone calls

The Red Cross team provides a Wi-Fi connection and has cell phones available to allow people to reconnect with their families.

“Many people become separated as they are brought here in different buses, so we are able to solve many of the situations within the camp. We help people to find their relatives, and when they are reunited, they often kiss and hug, because they thought they had lost each other for good,” Raduha says.

Red Cross volunteers also collect information from people to help reunite them with family members later. Recently the society’s tracing service, Restoring Family Links, reconnected a Syrian teenager and his family. While he was in Slovenia, the family continued their journey and reached Sweden. With the assistance of the Red Cross, the family will soon be reunited.

Reuniting a family with their infant

In another case an infant became separated from his family after being treated at the hospital in Serbia.

“For a few nights I had difficulties sleeping because of that, but we recently managed to bring the family together,” says Raduha. “So many of the volunteers had been involved in the case and  they came to witness the reunion.”

Before he started volunteering with Restoring Family Links, he was unsure whether he was cut out for a job working in times of crisis. He now volunteers almost every day, working up to 13 hours each day.

“The tracing service is my priority, but I help with what is needed, which might be taking people to the doctor, distributing food or clothing. I am very busy because there is always something to do. Even though my shift ends at 6pm, I often end up staying till 8 or 9pm,” he says. “It has truly been a positive experience. In a way it is very simple, because I just try to do my best to help.”

For more on the response of the Red Cross Red Crescent in Europe, please click here.