This course is two 45 – to 60 – minute sessions.
- To be aware of the plight of families separated by war
- To understand the scale of effort required to restore and maintain links between family members
- Armed conflict results in vast numbers of people becoming separated from their families with no means of communicating with them.
- IHL requires action to restore and maintain family links, including reuniting families.
- Many steps are required to trace and reunite a single family.
Separated By Armed Conflict | 10 minutes
In the chaos of armed conflict, families are forced to flee from their homes and family members are often separated. We will look at the scope of the effort involved in re-establishing family links.
Give students the following statistics on the number of children separated from their families because of armed conflict.
More than half of the estimated 50 million refugees and internally displaced people in the world today are children and adolescents. More than two million are children who have been separated from their families. As unaccompanied children, they are especially vulnerable to abuse, sexual exploitation and recruitment as child soldiers.
To help students understand the scope of these numbers ask questions such as:
Discuss the significance of being separated from their families because of armed conflict.
The Experience of Separation | 20 minutes
Introduce “Photo collage 5D”, which illustrates some of the effort involved in tracing as well as the experiences of families during separation and reunification. Invite learners’ reactions and questions:
The Task of Tracing and Reuniting | 15 – 20 minutes
In many conflicts, the situation makes it impossible to respond to all demands to reunite separated family members. Discuss the following situations that a humanitarian worker might face. Have learners suggest criteria for when and where to arrange reunification:
Use the “Tracing inquiry form” to share with learners the range of family information that is collected.
Use the “Red Cross message form” to show how communication is transmitted.
Evacuation of Unaccompanied Children | 10 – 15 minutes
Use the fact sheet “Rwanda’s children” to discuss the situation of unaccompanied children during an armed conflict.
In some countries where children had been evacuated, close or distant relatives turned up several years later asking for the children’s whereabouts and demanding that they be returned. In the host countries, where several children had been adopted in the meantime, some people said that the children had been well integrated into their new families and that it would be unwise to transfer them after they had become accustomed to their new life. Others said that international adoptions should not take place during times of war because it cannot be verified whether children have really been abandoned.
5. Missing persons The anguish of families with no news of relatives who go missing during a conflict does not end when the guns fall silent. Are their loved ones wounded, imprisoned or dead?
Read selected excerpts of articles of IHL from “Tracing and reuniting families the legal context” and have learners identify how they think the rules in the articles help the process of tracing and reuniting families.
[For example: the authorities must cooperate with humanitarian organisations by providing all relevant information they have (for example, lists of detained persons), by letting the humanitarian workers investigate or distribute Red Cross messages; the captors must allow prisoners to correspond with their families]