Restoring Family Links This Refugee Week

Letter to the Editor

Right now, we are witnessing the highest levels of human displacement on record. More than 114 million people around the world have been forcibly displaced because of persecution, conflict, violence, and human rights violations.

Within this mass movement of people fleeing danger, many seeking safety fall through the cracks. In 2023, the number of registered missing people globally was 212,000. This is not just a statistic, it represents well over 212,000 families, friends, and loved ones living in constant limbo, uncertain about the fate of someone they deeply care for.

This is a global issue of enormous proportions, and sadly, there are thousands more who remain unregistered.

Every hour, however, the fate or whereabouts of one missing person is clarified with the help of the global Red Cross Red Crescent Restoring Family Links (RFL) network.

The RFL service has been running for almost 110 years in Australia, and every day we see the great power in restoring family connection. Next week during Refugee Week, we take the opportunity to celebrate the contributions of people with refugee backgrounds and reflect on the importance of their connection to family.

“Finding Freedom: Family” is this year’s Refugee Week theme and a chance to reflect on our country’s longstanding history of supporting refugees, offering safety to over 950,000 people since World War II.

For many of us in Australia, the privilege of safety and stability makes it hard to comprehend that millions of people across the world are forced to embark on dangerous journeys seeking nothing more than safety and freedom – a journey that often leads to separation from loved ones and everything they had once called home.

Events over recent years have served a reminder for all of us of the importance of family and social connection. For many refugees, being separated from their families increases the likelihood of poor mental health and makes it harder to settle and build a new life.

Find missing or separated family members is one of the many ways Australian Red Cross supports refugees. In 2022, through the RFL network, 12,519 persons were located globally.

In Australia, we actively sought 1,912 people through our global family links network, resolving 82 cases where the missing person was located, or we were able to determine their fate, offering closure to those families.

We should all hope for a world where everyone is able to maintain connection with their loved ones and be protected against being separated or going missing.

Families will never stop searching, we won’t stop helping.

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