Many people have lost contact with their lost ones during their escape from their home countries. Aslan from Afghanistan is one of them. He now puts hope in Red Cross’ tracing service, which helps hundreds of relatives to be reunited all over Europe every year.
By Marion Chen
Calm, gentle and weak, sitting in front of me is Aslan, a desperate Afghan father who has been looking for his lost son since 2002 after he fled his home country.
A new project named Trace The Face set up by Red Cross two years ago helps people who want to look for their family members that lost contact because of war, terrorist attack, on the way of fleeing,etc. Aslan is one of them.
All of a sudden at one night in 2001, Aslan had to flee out of his hometown in Afghanistan not far from Iran. A number of armed tribes were fighting against one another and Aslan’s hometown was now under attack of the North Alliance. His mother and wife hastened him to run as far as he could to survive from the killing. He did it. He had to. He left his father killed by the North Alliance at home. At that time his youngest son was an infant and his elder son was only two years old.
He hid himself in the mountain Astana Baba and then went to Turkey through Iran. “That journey is hard to describe”, he says. In 2002 he got to Britain. With no money and no cell phone. At that time he had lost all contact with his family members.
Start Looking For The Lost Family
With the help of British Red Cross, he started to look for his family members. He tried all his effort when he was in Britain, searching around the refugee camps in Britain and going back to Iran and Pakistan wandering among all refugee camps there to set up connection with people who had also fled from his hometown.
He only got little information. But someone told him that his wife, mother and two sons had escaped from the hometown shortly after Aslan fled. In 2006 when Aslan was in Britain, the North Alliance was still searching for Aslan and they found Aslan’s family in another village in Afghanistan and killed his elder son in a very bad way. The kid was only around 6 years old at that time.
More hardship came to Aslan on his way looking for the information of his family members. After living in Britain for six years, he was deported by the British government and was sent back to Afghanistan in 2008.
None of the information of his family members could be found when he was back. He stayed in Kabul for about five days looking for information but nothing came out. Then he went to Pakistan to look for them, where he at last found some information of his wife from people from his hometown in a refugee camp.
His wife had fled with his mother and younger son to Pakistan doing orchard plantation there. Unfortunately while Aslan got to Pakistan, his wife was just sent back to Afghanistan because she did not have legal residence there.
But finally, after seven years’ separation he got in touch with his wife again.
“She could not recognize my voice when she received my phone call”, Aslan tells with tears sliding down his cheek.
It is a day created to draw attention to the fate of individuals imprisoned at places and under poor conditions unknown to their relatives and/or legal representatives.
His wife told him that his younger son got lost on the way cross the border from Pakistan to Iran. She had been with their son together with a larger group of women who had also been working illegally on the orchard plantation. They were assisted by human smugglers around the border areas on horse backs. His son was on the horse when they were ambushed by the Iranian border army. The smugglers escaped with his son by horse and his wife was caught by the Iranian soldiers and sent back to Afghanistan.
Hope On Trace The Face
Now Aslan has received asylum in Denmark and hopes to find information about his youngest – and only son – with the help of Red Cross’ online tracing service Trace The Face. He sits in the office of the tracing department in Copenhagen and points at a picture of himself that he hopes his son will see and react on. “I hope that Red Cross’ Trace The Face can help me to find my son,” he says.
Trace the Face is an unique online tool for those who have lost the ones they love. In 2015 Red Cross in Denmark reunited around 70 people using the tracing service.
On the website, people who are looking for missing loved ones can publish a photo of themselves. They hope their family will recognise them and use the Red Cross to get back in touch. There are currently over 1200 photos of people looking for their family on the website and every month about 100 new photos are uploaded. You can search by gender, age and country of origin, and the photos are hung in Red Cross offices and places where refugees gather all around Europe. The only information published is your photo, along with who you are looking for. All other information, including your name and your location, remains confidential.
How does Trace The Face work?
It is easy, safe and confidential. First, contact your local Red Cross/Red Crescent office. They will take your picture and upload it to the website. They will also confidentially keep your contact information on file. If and when your loved one sees your picture, they can click on it and enter their information. The local Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies then verify this information before putting you back in touch.
A long history of family tracing
Family tracing with the Red Cross is unique and relies on our global network of Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies. Relationships between societies are strong and each can access vital information within their own countries. It is also well established, going back to 1870 and the Franco- Prussian War. During the Second World War, the Red Cross gathered information about prisoners of war and forwarded more than 20 million letters and cards addressed to prisoners. Since then, tracing people separated by conflict, disaster and migration has become an essential part of Red Cross work. At any one time, our teams are helping around 2,500 people. www.tracetheface.org