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Separated by conflict ICRC develops global website to reunite families

The new ICRC website uses volunteers on the ground to reunite families

The new ICRC website uses volunteers on the ground to reunite families

(Keystone)

The Geneva-based International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) has launched a new website designed to help families dispersed by conflict and catastrophe find each other.

The site, familylinks.icrc.org, will work by tapping into the ICRC’s established network of humanitarian workers and volunteers around the world.

According to Olivier Dubois, deputy head of the Central Tracing Agency and Protection Division of the ICRC, a person seeking a loved one through the system will be able to use it find an ICRC specialist in the region where their family member was last seen.

“A few clicks will put them in touch with dedicated specialists who will provide personal follow-up on enquiries,” Dubois says.

In the past, the ICRC has run 23 similar ad-hoc websites to help families find one another, but this is its first attempt at establishing a single, global network. The first such website was created in 1996, in the aftermath of the Bosnian conflict. Another was established following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

A Libyan man living in the Swiss canton of Aargau who hadn’t seen his family for more than 40 years was recently reunited with them through the ICRC network, demonstrating the need for such an international search database, according to the organisation.

Abdussalem Al-Naji fled Libya in 1969 and severed all ties with his family back home, for their safety. After the fall of Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi, Al-Naji’s brother took up contact with him through the ICRC, who forwarded the message to him through the Swiss Red Cross. Al-Naji and his brother were recently reunited in Libya.

“Seeing your family again after 43 years – it's like being born again," Al-Naji said.

At present, the ICRC is particularly engaged in the ongoing conflict in Syria, which it admits has been particularly difficult to respond to. Last week, ICRC president Peter Maurer said  the organisation “can’t cope” with the worsening humanitarian situation as a result of the Syrian civil war.

swissinfo.ch and agencies


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