Red Cross aims to reunite shattered families

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The Independent Online

The British Red Cross, worried by the flood of displaced people from recent conflicts in Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Sri Lanka, is launching a programme to help reunite shattered families.

The British Red Cross, worried by the flood of displaced people from recent conflicts in Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Sri Lanka, is launching a programme to help reunite shattered families.

Linking Lives aims to inform people living in this country that the Red Cross will post messages at refugee camps, visit last-known addresses and talk to neighbours in an attempt to trace missing family members.

Neil Thorns, a spokesman for the British Red Cross, said: "We launched this new initiative to try to get in touch with ethnic groups all over the country to tell them that we can trace members of the family or even just leave messages for them. Many people who come here fleeing war, persecution or natural disasters have no idea that we can help them be reunited with their families."

Information about the confidential tracing and message service is to be distributed in 11 languages, including Somali, Serbo-Croat and Kurdish. Community leaders will be approached and articles placed in foreign-language newspapers.

"A lot of people don't realise that we have an enormous network throughout many countries and that can help with tracing people," he said. "Sometimes someone in a small village may just recognise a name even if the family no longer lives there."

A 12-strong team works flat out in London co-ordinating people's requests for information about their loved ones - who may have been last seen in a refugee camp or who were away on the day the family had to flee - and helping those who were left behind trace their relatives in the UK.

The British Red Cross relayed almost 20,000 messages in 1994, of which 15,000 arose from the conflict in Bosnia Herzegovina.

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