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Burundi Refugees flee violence: Restoring Family Links Program reconnects separated families


American Red Cross - Restoring Family Links program

The chaos and confusion that accompany war, disaster and international migration can separate families when they need each other most. When this happens, the Red Cross joins the search across international borders, offering a unique service that allows families to reconnect. After families contact us for help, American Red Cross caseworkers at local chapters around the U.S. work with our Red Cross and Red Crescent partners in nearly every country in the world to help locate missing relatives.

As a part of the world’s largest humanitarian network, we are able to draw on the local knowledge and connections of our partner Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, as well as the global knowledge of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Once a missing family member is found, the Red Cross helps reconnect them with their loved ones through written messages or phone calls. Messages can be very brief, but the three short words “I am alive” may be all that is needed to ease the minds of distraught relatives half a world away.

Burundi - Situation Overview :

Tensions in Burundi leading up to the July 2015 presidential elections resulted in large numbers of Burundians having to flee the country to seek refuge. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia are all currently hosting large numbers of Burundian refugees. The migration of Burundians into these countries is continuing, but at a slower rate. It has been reported that some Burundians have been able to return to Burundi recently.

How you can request help in Chicago

Restoring Family Links inquiries can be accepted for inquirers searching for family members with whom they have lost contact due to political unrest in Burundi and the subsequent migration of Burundians toward neighboring countries. Inquiries will be accepted that meet the following criteria:

  • Sought persons believed to have been lost contact with their relatives while fleeing the election-related unrest in Burundi, and were in regular contact with their relatives in the United States before contact was lost.
  • For immediate family members ONLY (parents, siblings, children, spouses, fiancées, grandparents or legal guardians) who are not U.S. citizens.
  • For information on initiating a case, please call the Restoring Family Links team at 312-729-6238. Please know that once a case is initiated, it may take some time to receive a response to these cases from our Red Cross partners due to the high volume of requests.
  • Here is what our Global Red Cross Network is doing to help:

    The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC); in cooperation with the Red Cross National Societies of Burundi, DRC, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia continues to offer Restoring Family links services to those in need. These services include tracing and Red Cross Message services, RFL mobile phone calls, registration of Unaccompanied Minors, as well as visits to places of detention. Additionally, cell phone charging stations and cell phone SIM cards are being provided in some locations to help families maintain contact with loves ones.

    For more information on the global Restoring Family Links program, please visit