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Thousands still missing as British Red Cross marks the International Day of the Disappeared

14/08/2009
For further information please contact

Henry Makiwa
Telephone +44 (0)207 877 7479, HMakiwa@redcross.org.uk, Out of office hours pager: 07659 145095

The British Red Cross is currently trying to trace the relatives of over 2,000 families who have been separated as a result of the conflicts in Afghanistan, Eritrea, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Iraq among other countries.

This comes as the charity marks this years International Day of the Disappeared (30/08/09) with a series of events to be held across the country. The day is a reminder that hundreds of thousands of families across the world are still unaware of the fate of their loved ones missing in conflicts.

Hundreds of thousands of people are estimated to be missing globally as a result of armed conflict or other situations of violence. The British Red Cross tracing and message service, however, also works to locate relatives who have been separated from each other as a result of natural disasters and other emergencies,  said Kevin Studds, head of the British Red Cross international tracing and message service.

In 2008 we traced 476 people and exchanged 527 messages between families and their relatives. More than ten per cent of our case load still relates to families trying to discover the fate of loved ones who they lost contact with as a result of World War Two,¡¨ he added

At events to be held across the country, the British Red Cross will be giving away symbolic forget-me-not bookmarks embedded with flower seeds and asking the public to sow them on 30th August in memory of those who are still missing. Details, an interactive global map and a quiz game are also available on the Red Cross website: redcross.org.uk/trace

Television personality Konnie Huq who has worked with the Red Cross tracing and message service said: ¡§When loved ones go missing as a result of conflict or natural disaster the Red Cross is there to try and reunite them. I have seen this work first hand when I travelled to Angola and saw the work of the tracing and message service reuniting families separated due to years of civil war there.¡¨

In 2004, Almaz Berhanu Yesbasa fled from political persecution in Ethiopia to seek refuge in the UK, leaving behind her husband and four daughters. Cut off and uncertain of the fate of her family, Almaz went for almost a year without any contact with them, until they were reconnected by the Red Cross.

Almaz was eventually reunited with her four daughters after three years and now lives with them in Portsmouth.
She said: ¡§Being separated from my daughters was very hard. I don¡¦t like to think about it because it brings back a lot of bad memories. My daughters have been found, so I¡¦m happy.

I would recommend anyone who wants to find someone in their family to go and talk to the Red Cross.¡¨

For more information on the events, how to get involved and activities taking place, please visit: redcross.org.uk/trace

Notes to editors

For interviews, case studies and photography please contact: Henry Makiwa: HMakiwa@redcross.org.uk (+44 20 78777479)
The British Red Cross works worldwide to discover the fate of those missing as a result of war or disaster and, where possible, to restore contact between them and their families. Through the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, the British Red Cross is able to help trace these missing family members by sending information given to us by relatives in the UK to the International Committee of the Red Cross or to the relevant National Red Cross or Red Crescent Society overseas. This information is then used to search for missing family members. In addition the British Red Cross helps families stay in touch when normal means of communication have broken down because of conflict or disaster through the exchange of family news in Red Cross messages.

The International Day of the Disappeared on August 30 is a United Nations-recognised annual commemoration day for individuals who have gone missing in armed conflicts or other situations of violence and whose fate is unresolved.
Events to commemorate the day in the UK will be held in the following areas:

London 
Stall at the West London office of the Refugee Council on 25th of August, from 10am till 4pm.

Stall at the Brixton office of the Refugee Council on 27th of August 10am and 4pm

Peterborough
Display at the central Library 29th of August, also distribution of bookmarks and leaflets

Liverpool
Stall at Slavery Remembrance Day Festival, Liverpool Town Hall on 22nd of August 11am and 4pm, also distribution of bookmarks and leaflets

Scotland -
Aberdeen ¡V bookmark giving at Wizard Music Festival 28, 29th of August 2009

 

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