Finding Missing Relatives with Help from our Global Red Cross Network
Not knowing where your father, mother, brother or sister is. Every year, this is the harsh reality for thousands of people worldwide. They have lost contact with their loved ones as the result of a war, conflict, natural disaster or migration. Where do you begin your search?
The Netherlands Red Cross helps people to search for missing relatives and to restore contact. We do this work in partnership with the ICRC (the International Committee of the Red Cross) and all national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Our worldwide network enables us to search and find missing relatives around the world.
What is the Restoring Family Links programme?
The Red Cross helps people worldwide to find their missing relatives. We can offer this service thanks to our extensive international network of 192 National Red Cross Societies.
How does it work?
If you have lost a family member/relative or other loved one, you can get in touch with the Restoring Family Links department of the Red Cross in order to submit a tracing request. Once your request has been assessed, we will invite you to come to one of our offices for an interview with a member of the Red Cross staff. During this meeting, we will discuss the possible options with you and note down all the information we need. Once we have registered your request, we will pass it on to the Red Cross association in the country where your loved one has gone missing.
Aid workers from the Red Cross will then start the search. There are various ways in which this may be done. For example, we make enquiries at the last known address and in the surroundings. We also contact the local authorities or other organisations. Sometimes we bring in the local media to find someone or we may hand out posters at the local market.
If we succeed in finding your loved one, we will ensure that you are put in contact with each other. We will also contact you if we have been unable to find your relative, in order to let you know this.
How can the Red Cross help you?
Searching for missing relatives
Have you lost contact with members of your family as the result of a war, armed conflict, natural disaster or migration? Then the Red Cross may be able to help you with your search. We offer this service free of charge. Each request is handled confidentially. The information is exchanged between the various Red Cross organisations and other organisations. We only do this with your consent. For more information please contact us.
Red Cross family messages
Do you know where your family member is but are unable to get in touch with him or her? Then you may be able to use a Red Cross message to do this. A Red Cross message is an exchange of letters between two family members in order to share personal news. This message will be sent to areas where there is no regular postal service or phone or Internet connection. In some cases, a Red Cross volunteer then literally gets on his bike and personally delivers the message of family news to the addressee.
Content of a Red Cross message
The Red Cross is an impartial and neutral organisation. We can access disaster areas and conflict areas that other organisations cannot. This neutrality also means that there are strict rules about what a Red Cross message may contain. For example, a Red Cross message may be about personal or family news. Photos – and in some cases official documents – may be sent with them too. However, a Red Cross message must not contain any political news or requests for money. It is not possible to send items such as money or medicines with it either.
Sending a Red Cross message
In order to send a Red Cross message, you have to know the name and full address of the recipient. Would you like to send a message? Then fill in the contact form. If you don’t have a current address then you can start a tracing process.
Searching for missing relatives yourself
You can also search for your family members yourself using social media, mutual friends/contact persons and the specialised website Trace the Face.
- Search for your relative using social media (Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp etc.). Don’t forget to spell your relative’s name in different ways.
- Look for mutual friends/contact persons. They may be able to get in touch with your lost family member.
- Search for your family member or other relative on the Red Cross website Trace the Face. This is a website run by the International Committee of the Red Cross that displays photos of people who are looking for relatives. If you want to put your own photo on the website then please make an appointment with Restoring Family Links.
- Do not stop trying after just one attempt. Keep monitoring the social media and look often at the website Trace the Face, as new photos of searching relatives are being placed on this website all the time.
Other points and urgent requests
In some cases, the Red Cross can help with other requests too. For example, if you want to ask for a document, suddenly lose contact with an ill or vulnerable family member or need to urgently trace the family of a person who died recently or to pass on an urgent family message about a medical matter.
Each request is handled confidentially. The information is exchanged between the various Red Cross organisations and other organisations. We only do this with your consent.
- For urgent matters: Mondays to Fridays from 09.00 a.m. – 17.00 p.m. (all times CET/Central European Time)
- For other questions: Mondays to Fridays from 09.00 a.m. to 12 midday (all times CET/Central European Time)
Do you want to submit a tracing request? Then please fill in our contact form.
Would you like to submit a request for help to Restoring Family Links? Then please fill out the contact form below, and we will get in touch with you. For other questions, please contact our team via +31-(0)70-4455822 (Monday – Friday, 9.00 – 12 AM CET).
Our working languages are Dutch and English. If you don’t speak either of these languages then please ask somebody to help you who does speak one of them.
Update for enquirers with a file at RFL: Red Cross search database discontinued.
The International Red Cross (ICRC) has decided to discontinue the Red Cross search database. The Red Cross search database was used to conduct cross-searches within different Red Cross associations, based on the details you submitted of your missing family members or loved ones. This database is discontinued as of now. This means that all registrations in the Red Cross search database will unfortunately expire immediately. In case you registered with the Red Cross search database, your data and those of your missing family members or loved ones will be removed from the search database.
We are sorry that we have to inform you that our search possibilities are limited. We can imagine that our message raises questions and can be emotional to you. Please do not hesitate to contact us!