Tracing celebrates 75 years

Originally established to help children displaced by the Spanish Civil War

The Red Cross believes that restoring and maintaining contact between family members worldwide is a fundamental service. This is equally true of the Belgian Red Cross: in 1937, the National Society set up a service for the Spanish children who ended up in Belgium during the Spanish Civil War. Its aim was to help those children find and reestablish contact with parents from whom they had become separated.

After the end of the Spanish Civil War, we continued to trace people caught up in major conflicts or natural disasters. The massive population movements during the Second World War led to a huge expansion in tracing activities worldwide. There were boat people from Vietnam and Cambodia in the 1970s, defectors from the Eastern Block during the Cold War, and many more. Time and again, Tracing tried to help people get back into contact with their loved ones at home.

We have remained active in more recent conflicts too. There was the Yugoslavian Civil War and the genocide in Rwanda in the early 1990s, which naturally created a large number of refugees. And then the American invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, which remains an issue today.

75 years of service 

The Tracing Service celebrated its 75th birthday in 2012. Thanks to Tracing, thousands of missing people have been found over that period.

Throughout those 75 years, we have held true to our guiding principle: the right to know. We believe that knowing the fate of a loved one is as important as food, clothes, shelter or medical care.

We engaged in various initiatives to promote our 75th birthday. Our tracing activities were reported extensively in the media in connection with the International Day of the Disappeared on August 30.

Tracing was also the main theme of volunteer activities in the International Cooperation Advocacy Department. On May 12, the department organized a tracing study day for Red Cross volunteers at Fort Breendonk. The tracing game was played at the Prelude (the launch event for the 14-day sticker sales), Fiesta (the annual volunteer party) and the Red Cross Youth Start Day. The game involves looking for a missing family member using photos and Red Cross messages.

Our staff were given an overview of Tracing’s 75-year history at the quarterly Infolunch and played the tracing game on the International Day of the Disappeared.

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