On the occasion of the International Day of Disappeared, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Ukraine wishes to highlight that more than 800 persons remain unaccounted for as a result of the Donbas conflict, as reported by their families to the ICRC and the Ukrainian Red Cross Society (URCS). Many more are believed to be missing. The families have no information about the fate or the whereabouts of their loved ones, and continue to live in uncertainty and anguish.

The ICRC recognizes the progress achieved by the Ukrainian authorities to adopt a legal framework on missing persons and establish a Commission on Missing persons. Likewise, the recently announced establishment of similar mechanisms in Donetsk and Luhansk is encouraging. More needs to be done to accelerate the establishment and operationalization of local mechanisms, to bring answers to the families, and to support them in the process.

The ICRC’s international experience in the field of missing persons and their families has shown that in order for the search for missing persons to succeed, it is essential that those in charge put at the center of their preoccupation the needs of the families, set up mechanisms that benefit from enough powers and resources to sustain a decades-long process, and ensure that the information on missing persons is centralized and made available to the entities concerned by the search. The sooner these elements are in place, the higher the chance to provide the families with the answers they so await.

Families of the missing have been deeply affected by the disappearance of their loved ones and face serious emotional as well as economical and legal consequences.

As the missing person is often the breadwinner, the family loses a source of income affecting its living standard dramatically. Some cannot even meet their daily needs, such as pay for food or clothing. The disappearance also leads to many legal and administrative obstacles for the families, including getting access to the missing person’s bank account, managing common property, obtaining documents, etc. The families suffer the most from the lack of information about their beloved ones. Uncertainty causes anguish, desperation, and isolation.

To address the needs of the relatives, the ICRC launched a comprehensive program in Ukraine in 2016 with the aim of ensuring the families are accompanied and supported. The program covers several aspects of the families’ needs. It supports the establishment and sustainable functioning of so-called “family associations”, provides psychological and psychosocial support to the families to help them cope with the ambiguity of their loss, and offers legal aid to those in need. Families who face financial difficulties because of the disappearance of their breadwinner have also received training, financial support, and economic grants.

The ICRC remains committed to support the families and their representatives, to relay their voices, and to continue helping the authorities and structures in their efforts to bring long awaited answers.

On the occasion of the International Day of the Disappeared, the ICRC encourages the authorities and structures to accelerate the search process, by establishing local mechanisms or operationalizing existing ones, and by ensuring that the families of missing persons are supported in the process. Relatives of the missing persons have the right to know the fate and whereabouts of their loved ones.

For further information, please contact:
Sanela Bajrambasic, ICRC Communications Coordinator in Ukraine +38 095 262 80 49
Oleksandr Vlasenko, ICRC Kyiv +380 95 262 8118; +380 50 348 47 43