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Red Cross: Search requests for Syrians soar

April 26, 2018

After initially dealing with up to 50 requests a month, the Red Cross has said that in recent months, thousands of people have sought its help. Reunions, however, have seldom occurred, according to the aid organization.

A man holding  a photo of a family member who fled eastern Ghouta
Image: Getty Images/AFP/A. Qureshi

The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer, told journalists at the UN late Wednesday that the organization had received some 13,000 tracing requests from Syrians over the past six months, compared to only 30 to 50 per month in the early years of the Syrian war.

The Red Cross head said that the surge was probably in part linked to Syrians returning to "precariously stable" areas where combat had subsided, and that the requests came from Syrians displaced inside Syria and abroad.

Read more: Syrians struggling to reclaim homes

He warned, however, that the Red Cross and partner organizations had experienced limited success so far, adding that some of the missing may have died or been put in prison.

"We want to beef up our capacities to look in much more details to these requests," he said.

Some out of bounds

Inside Syria, the ICRC could only visit state-run prisons but not secret detention facilities reputedly run by the Syrian army and intelligence services.

"Neither do we have access at the present moment to detention facilities of the opposition [groups], Maurer added.

Visits had, however, become possible to opposition fighters held by Kurdish forces in northern Syria and in Iraq — as well as their families held in camps.

Scattered reunions

The recent recapture of Douma, a remnant rebel bastion east of Damascus, by forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad, led to scattered reunions.

The ICRC works with governments and nongovernmental organizations to identify bodies and attempt to locate missing people. 

ipj/sms (AP, AFP)