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.
For more information, please download the Restoring Familiy Links folder in Arabic, Russian, English, French, Spanish, Ukrainian, Farsi, Somali and Tigrinya.
The 2023 Earthquake in Türkiye and Syria – FAQ
The Red Cross has received many questions from people who have concerns about their families following the earthquake in Turkey and Syria. Below you will find answers to the most frequently asked questions.
I cannot get in touch with a person of Dutch nationality in Turkey or Syria, what should I do?
It’s best to call the general number of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: +31 247 247 247.
I cannot get in touch with someone in Turkey or Syria who does not have Dutch nationality, what should I do?
You can contact the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority of Turkey (AFAD, Turkish government) via en.afad.gov.tr. or call AFAD at one of the phone numbers below (please note that not all staff speak English):
AFAD Mardin 0090 (0) 582 212 3740
AFAD Diyarbakir 0090 (0) 412 326 1156
AFAD Hatay 0090 (0) 326 112 0000
AFAD Maras 0090 (0) 344 221 4991
AFAD Antep 0090 (0) 342 428 1118
AFAD Adiyaman 0090 (0) 416 216 1231
AFAD Urfa 0090 (0) 414 313 7290
AFAD Malatya 0090 (0) 422 212 8432
AFAD Adana 0090 (0) 322 227 2854
Unfortunately there are no contact numbers for the government in Syria at the moment.
I get no answer when I mail or call. What should I do?
At the moment, unfortunately, we find that various communication channels (telephone, internet, etc,) are not working or are limited in the affected areas. As a result, family members may be safe but have not had a chance to reach you yet. We recommend that you keep trying regularly yourself, if possible through different channels (social media, email, phone, a person who may be close to them, etc.) It may take some time (from days to weeks) for communication to be restored.
What can Restoring Family Links do?
At this time, Restoring Family Links has no capabilities in the affected areas. When we are able to take requests for the earthquake in Turkey and/or Syria, we will report it on the website. Also keep an eye on the websites of the International Red Cross: IFRC and ICRC.
If all communication with the disaster area has been restored and you still cannot get in touch with relatives in Turkey or Syria, fill in the contact form. When the situation in Turkey or Syria allows us to offer our RFL services, we will help you if we can.
This may take some time. Check this website for the latest updates. In the meantime, we encourage you to also keep trying to get in touch yourself, if possible through multiple channels (social media, email, phone, a person who may be close to them, etc.).
If you are still unable to contact relatives in Syria because of the earthquake, there are currently limited RFL opportunities in the following regions/provinces: Aleppo, Lattakia, Tartous and Hama. You need to have a last known address: city, street, building name or number. If you do, please complete the contact form.
After the contact form is received, Restoring Family Links will contact you to schedule an intake interview. Due to the large number of requests, this may take some time. During the intake interview, we will discuss the possibilities and note down all the necessary information. Each application will be treated confidentially. The information may be exchanged with the Red Crescent association in Syria and other relevant Syrian government agencies. We will only do this with your consent.
This webpage for the latest updates on our RFL capabilities.
The websites of the International Red Cross and the Federation. These websites show what assistance is being provided by the ICRC (International Red Cross) and RC (Red Cross/Crescent Society) on site.
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.