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Forget them not on International Day of the Disappeared

28 August 2009

Father searching photos of missing childrenBenno NeelemanOn the International Day of the Disappeared, 30 August, the Red Cross is reminding people that hundreds of thousands of families are still unaware of the fate of their loved ones missing in conflicts around the world.

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

At events across the country, the organisation is giving away symbolic forget-me-not bookmarks embedded with flower seeds and asking the public to sow them on 30 August in memory of those who are still missing.

Tracing missing people

Television presenter Konnie Huq, who has worked with the Red Cross, said: “When loved ones go missing as a result of conflict or natural disaster the Red Cross is there to help. I have seen this work first hand when I travelled to Angola and saw families, separated due to years of civil war, being reunited.”

In 2008, the British Red Cross traced 476 people and exchanged 527 messages between families and their relatives. More than ten per cent of the organisation’s 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.

Fleeing persecution

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 from her family and uncertain of their fate, 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 children 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.

“But I am still searching for my husband. I’m just hoping we can get information to him about where we are, so that he can contact us. I would recommend anyone who wants to find someone in their family to go and talk to the Red Cross.”

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