Right now, there are more people displaced from their homes than at any other time in recorded history. Refugees and asylum seekers face challenges but can also find optimism in their journeys.
The decision to flee home is never an easy one. Sometimes it’s not even a decision at all. Whether families have the best-laid plans for crossing a border into safety or are forced out on a moment’s notice, the results are similarly heartbreaking.
Around the world, at least 79.5 million people have been forced to flee their homes as a result of conflict or persecution. June 20 marks World Refugee Day—a moment designated by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to honor families’ plights and celebrate their resilience.
One common consequence of displacement is that people lose touch with their loved ones. In the chaos of the journey to safety, mothers’ hands lose their childrens’. Grown siblings decide on different routes for getting to the same refugee camp, but one never makes it. Orphaned twins born in a war zone end up in the arms of different families—thousands of miles away from one another.
As part of its humanitarian mission, the American Red Cross Restoring Family Links team helps to reconnect loved ones separated by international conflict, disaster and crisis. Out of this work comes something that can feel rare in the journey of a refugee: hope.
These three incredible stories of reunification demonstrate the slivers of optimism that can come out of pain:
Twin Brothers Separated at Birth Reunite After 68 Years Apart
George and Lucjan were separated as infants when their mother—recently released from a forced labor camp in Germany after World War II—fell ill. The brothers were adopted by different families and did not even know the other existed for many years. “All my life, I wanted to know my family,” says George. After opening a search with the Red Cross, the twins shared a joyful reunion in Poland. “I felt deep inside me I had a brother, I just felt it,” remembers Lucjan. Read the full story »
Mother Finds Daughter Alive
Years of conflict forced Lydia out of her home country, the Democratic Republic of Congo. She found safety in the United States but being so far away from her family left her with a heavy heart. When Lydia couldn’t get in touch with her daughter, Odette, she spent sleepless nights wondering whether she was alive. Lydia opened a search with the Red Cross and sent a letter in hopes that it would reach her daughter. Eventually, she heard back from Odette: she was alive and well. “There was no other way for me to talk to her. There was no other way,” rejoices Lydia.
Message Arrives from a Long-Lost Father
"I didn't know whether my father and sister were dead or alive. I was dying to know their status but to no avail," says Suada, who fled Sudan with the rest of her family intact. She waited for word from her sister and father for more than six years. One joyful day, a Red Cross message arrived at the refugee camp where Suada was living. "I was extremely happy to hear from them,” says Suada, remembering the pain of separation. Hear more about Suada’s journey >>
How does the American Red Cross help refugees?
The American Red Cross and the global Red Cross and Red Crescent network aid refugees, migrants and asylum seekers every day of the year. Our network’s global presence enables us to help people at various stages of their journeys: in countries of origin, transit and destination. Red Cross and Red Crescent teams deliver relief supplies—such as food, water, hygiene kits, baby supplies, clothing and basic medical items—in addition to first aid and medical services, shelter and comfort to families.
See more info about the American Red Cross’s work with migrants abroad here and in the USA here.