Restoring Family Links

Clarifying the fate and whereabouts of missing persons and ensuring contact between separated family members is first and foremost the responsibility of the State authorities. The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement however has a crucial role to play. Restoring Family Links (RFL) lies at the origin of the Movement and at the heart of the work of its components. RFL is the embodiment of the principle of humanity and it is in this domain that the unique character of a global network which the Movement represents is truly demonstrated. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people benefit from the Movement's RFL services.

Under the international humanitarian law and international human rights law, people have the right to know the fate of a missing relative.

The International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) and the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies therefore work together all over the world to assist people separated from their loved ones in both emergencies and other situations.

The Kenya Red Cross National Tracing Service was officially initiated in June 1991 with the help of the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC), at a period when Kenya played host to over 400,000 registered refugees.

RFL involves a range of activities. They frequently entail tracing persons who are unaccounted for and registering particularly vulnerable people such as children who have been separated from their families and people being held in detention. RFL activities comprise:

  • Organising the exchange of family news.
  • Tracing individuals.
  • Registering and keeping track of individuals to prevent their disappearance and to inform their families of their whereabouts.
  • Reuniting and sometimes repatriating families.
  • Helping the authorities clarify what has happened to persons unaccounted for.
  • Collecting, managing and forwarding information on the deceased.

In addition, the proper management and identification of bodies is closely related to enabling families to learn the fate of their loved ones. KRCS's tracing services complement government action and are coupled with managing information on the deceased.

Information collected on the deceased as well as proper and dignified management of bodies can help prevent those killed from vanishing without a trace, and also help bereaved families to overcome their grief.

In any given crisis, KRCS' role in dealing with mortal remains is agreed with the authorities. It may involve:

  • Advising the authorities.
  • Collecting information on the deceased
  • Handling, storing or burying remains.
  • Providing support for the families of the victims.

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