Restoring family links

Displaying 1 - 3 of 3
13/05/2022 | Press release

Red Cross extends support to families separated by violence and conflict

Budapest/Geneva, 13 May 2022 – Ahead of the International Day of Families on 15 May, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is expanding its family reunification services with a new initiative. The Reunification Pathways for Integration (REPAIR) project is co-funded by the European Union’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF), and enables safe and legal family reunification in the EU by assisting beneficiaries of international protection and their family members before, during and after arrival. The three-year project is led by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in partnership with the Austrian, British, French and Slovenian Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). National Red Cross Societies in these four countries are scaling up their support by offering a range of services including counselling, visa application support, socio-cultural orientation sessions, psychosocial support and language classes. They also provide integration support to help family members reconnect after a long period of separation. Building on the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement's longstanding work with migrants and refugees, the project aims to improve and expand the current service provision through the development of new tools and approaches, also to be shared with key stakeholders. Activities in the programme will contribute to the improvement of the Family Reunification journey for affected communities and a strengthened network of agencies in Europe and beyond. IFRC Europe Regional Director, Birgitte Ebbesen, said the right to family life must be respected, regardless of where people come from: “Whether from Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan or Somalia, people who flee violence and persecution often become separated from their family members, which can have devastating consequences on their wellbeing. Without their loved ones, they are not able to resume normal lives. Family reunification is essential to realizing the right to family life in Europe and key for long-term integration in receiving communities.” The project is built on Restoring Family Links (RFL), a key mandate of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement to deliver activities that aim to prevent separation and disappearance, look for missing persons, restore and maintain contact between family members, and clarify the fate of persons reported missing. Family reunification is one of the safe and legal routes to protection to Europe, yet families face many challenges due to the complex legal framework and practical obstacles. Bringing together beneficiaries of international protection and their relatives often turns into a lengthy and unsafe process. The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is calling for a more holistic, protection-oriented approach that is safe, inclusive and provides the necessary support to families at every step of the way. Preparing local authorities and host communities for the arrivals should also be an integral part of the action. “A fair and swift family reunification process ensures dignity and helps prevent desperate families from taking dangerous journeys to join their loved ones, often resulting in tragic deaths and people going missing en route. We are not just helping people, we are saving lives,” Ms. Ebbesen added. For more information, please contact: In Budapest: Nora Peter, +36 70 265 4020, [email protected]

Read more
15/02/2019 | Article

“I had a house, but it was empty and full of sadness” – one mother’s seven years in limbo

By Ece Ceren Doğar For 25-year-old Arezou* the last seven years have passed painfully slowly. Separated from her young son while trying to make it from Turkey to Greece, she has spent this whole time not knowing how he was. The young mother left Iran with her son Najeeb*, then five, to escape her violent parents-in-law, after the death of her husband, who she was forced to marry when she was 12 years old. It was while trying to cross the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece that Arezou was separated from Najeeb. She decided there and then, that she was going to do whatever it took to get her son back. After walking for three months, day and night, together with 35 other people who were also seeking to rebuild their lives in a place of safety, Arezou made it to Finland, a country 3,000 kilometres away. From Finland, she started searching for her son again. “First I went to the authorities who referred me to the Finnish Red Cross. The Red Cross contacted the Turkish Red Crescent and they both started to manage the process for family reunification, while I continued to wait with hope. Now, here I am in Istanbul seven years later to pick up my son.” Arezou’s seven years in limbo in Finland were marred by sadness and an inability to sleep. “My dream was to have a happy life with a house that I will live in with my child. In Finland, I had a house but it was empty and full of sadness. Now I have both a house and my son. For the first time in years, I can sleep. If I had not been patient and had given up, I would have lost everything but now I am the happiest woman in the world! Now I can lead a real life like other people.” She says the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement has given her a new life. “It was distressing not to know how my son was. Years have passed with doubts in my mind. However, now we are together, we will live both happiness and sadness together, face challenges together. “I would like to thank both Finnish Red Cross and Turkish Red Crescent. Their staff accompanied us and provided all the services like accommodation and transportation making sure we were comfortable during our stay in Istanbul. We also ate dinner with the foster parents of my son Najeeb. They are happy, but also feel sad that he is leaving.” Arezou returned to Finland with Najeeb on her birthday and says this happy outcome is the best gift she could have received. Restoring Family Links (RFL) Programme in Turkeyis financed bythe European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) and strives for putting families back into contact and reunify with their relatives. *Names have been changed at the request of the interviewees.

Read more
11/01/2019 | Article

Turkey: Bringing families back together

By Helena Loh, IFRC “E.T. phone home?” “E.T. phone home.” “And they’ll come?” “Come? Home. Home.” Hearing these words while watching the movie E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial in 1994, six-year-old Yasmina Peker cried so hard that her mother had to tell her the happy ending to stop her tears. Today, Yasmina is Team Leader of Turkish Red Crescent Society’s Restoring Family Links (RFL) community-based migration programme. She smiles as she remembers the movie, “I remember how E.T. wanted to go home, but couldn’t, and it really affected me,” she said. As descendent of people separated during the Cold War, Yasmina’s quest is to bring families together, many of whom have been lost or separated along the migratory route. She believes family is core to social networks and identity. The Restoring Family Links programme, which includes tracing, family reunification and Red Cross and Red Crescent messaging services, is unique to the work of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. But experiences of trauma and separation are seldom shared easily. Through her work, Yasmina has discovered how difficult it is to actually find someone. Processes are long and complex, and paperwork can be overwhelming, with the red tape of bureaucracy stretching across institutions, laws and international borders. “Some stories do have a happy ending, though,” said Yasmina. One that comes to mind is an Iraqi child looking for his grandmother. Though he had her name and village in Turkey, nothing could be done until a Turkish Red Crescent RFL team member, together with the Red Crescent’s Community Centre protection officer, went there to seek her out. After much asking around, residents finally pointed him to the lady herself. However, with the child having lost his parents, a mountain of paperwork and a slew of messages were required before grandmother and grandson could finally be together. Social media too can be useful. With help from the Red Crescent through this programme, two brothers who came through Turkey on their way to northern Europe and were separated, managed to find each other through Facebook. While Red Cross and Red Crescent messaging manages to put families in touch some 90 to 92 per cent of the time, there have been only 18 success stories among more than 500 family reunification cases that have been ongoing since January 2017. Tracing has had even lower rates of success, with only four or five cases resolved among the 500-odd cases pending. Why is it so hard? Yasmina explained: “Because most of our work is based on people’s memories. “Memories change and fade, time and trauma blur perception and often people do not recall things clearly,” she said. And then there is the challenge of spelling. The name Mohammed alone is spelled in more than ten different ways, and database searching does not bring up a match unless it is exactly the same. Still, achieving success does not lie entirely with the Restoring Family Links team - people seeking family can do something to help themselves as well. Yasmina advises self-care to begin with. “You must be strong to support others,” she said with conviction. “Apart from keeping as physically healthy as you can, psychological help is not a luxury, but necessary to prepare for the future.” “It also helps to inform National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in all the countries of transit and arrival in case a trace is put out. Migrants should also reach out to their diaspora in the country of arrival.” Despite her obvious optimism and motivation, working in the programme is no picnic for Yasmina and her team. It is hard to ease the frustration of people seeking their families. When asked how she deals with the emotional side of the entire process, Yasmina replied, “I think about how I would describe my family members if I were to lose them. It could help to prepare yourself how you would search for them. Nobody wants to be in this situation. But it is important to be prepared.” For more information about the Restoring Family Links programme under the Turkish Red Crescent’s Migration and Refugee Services, click here. More information on the work of the Community Centres supported by the Turkish Red Crescent and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) can be found here.

Read more