Locating missing persons and restoring family ties

The chaos of a conflict or natural disaster tears apart countless families. Family members flee in different directions, people lose their means of communication or, more generally, communication channels become disrupted, preventing people from contacting their relatives.

Restoring Family Links (RFL) is part of the global Restoring Family Links network of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and specializes in locating missing persons and restoring contact between family members. In addition, RFL also informs persons with International Protection Status (= recognized refugees or subsidiary protected persons) in Belgium about the procedure of family reunification.

Detection and restoration of contact

Not knowing where your parents, brothers or sisters are is a harsh reality for many people fleeing violence or natural disaster. Belgian Red Cross-Flanders helps in the search for missing family members.

Acceptance criteria

You can apply if:

  • you are looking for a family member;
  • contact has been lost due to conflict, migration or natural disaster.

You cannot apply for:

  • tracing applications in the context of adoption;
  • unsettling disappearances;
  • genealogical research or historical studies;
  • family disputes.


Whether or not a search request is processed cannot be considered evidence of the existence of a relationship between the hopeful and the wanted person. Nor can it be considered proof or indication that the wanted person is or is not missing or that this person exists or does not exist. Consequently, the intention is not to initiate files merely to support the asylum procedure.

Fill out the contact form here

How do we work?

If you have lost a family member or other loved one, you can contact Restoring Family Links through the contact form, by mail or phone. If your request is in line with our acceptance criteria, we will invite you for an interview with a Red Cross staff member. This can be done online or at our office in Mechelen. During this interview, we will discuss the possibilities and take down all the necessary details.

Once we have registered your question, based on the information you have given us, we will figure out how to look for your relatives. This can be done in various ways. For example, we can ask the Red Cross in the country where your relative is missing for help. Then the Red Cross can go locally to the last known address or inquire in the area. In addition, we can contact local authorities or other organizations, if the person seeking help gives permission. Furthermore, we can also post a photo of the aid recipient on the Trace the Face website. This is a Red Cross website that contains photos of people who are looking for family. 

If you have succeeded in finding your loved one, we will make sure you are put in touch with each other.  

How long a search takes is unfortunately unpredictable. Nor can we guarantee that we will find your family, but we will make regular contact to evaluate the file together. If we fail to find your family, we will notify you.

How can you search for yourself?

You can also take steps yourself to find your family. After all, the more the search is done, the greater the chance of a positive outcome.

You can search yourself by:

  • Check phone numbers and e-mail addresses.
  • Check social media (Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok, etc.). When doing so, remember to spell your family member's name in different ways.
  • Ask questions of other family members and friends. They may have heard from your relative.
  • Ask questions of people of your nationality or of your region. They may still be in touch with people from your region who can provide information about your missing relative.
  • Check the Trace the Face website regularly.

Prevention Tips

Unfortunately, many people still lose contact with their loved ones every day for a wide variety of reasons, Restoring Family Links would like to highlight some more tips you can use to avoid losing contact with your family members:

  • Memorize phone numbers of family members.
  •  If you travel with children, help them memorize important info, such as parents' names.
  • Share your planned route with your family and friends.
  • Inform your family members about your trip and locations at set times.
  • Learn the email address from outside family and friends.
  •  Contact the local Red Cross immediately if you lose contact with your family.
  •  Make sure you and your family wear safe life jackets.
  • Should you be stopped the by police, notify them that you wish to stay with your family.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Restoring Family Links search anywhere in the world?

Restoring Family Links can search in all countries where the Red Cross is represented. However, search capabilities vary from country to country, and may be affected (temporarily) by, for example, the security situation in a particular country.

Can Restoring Family Links help everyone?

Restoring Family Links accepts all requests for assistance if they fall within the acceptance criteria, regardless of the status of the applicant for assistance.

How much does a tracking through Restoring Family Links cost?

Restoring Family Links' services are always free of charge.

How long does a search through Restoring Family Links take?

The duration of a search depends on several factors such as, for example, the information available and the complexity of the case. We cannot determine in advance how long a search will take.

Family reunification

Restoring Family Links informs persons with International Protection Status (=recognized refugee or subsidiary protected) in Belgium about the family reunification procedure.

Below you can find frequently asked questions. Be sure to review them before filling out the contact form.

Fill out the contact form here

Frequently Asked Questions

I am recognized refugee/subsidy protected, who can I bring to Belgium through family reunification?

Persons with International Protection Status in Belgium (recognized refugees and subsidiary protected persons) can bring following persons to Belgium through family reunification:

If you yourself are of age (= 18 years or older).

  • Your spouse (Please note: you must be married before submitting your application for recognition as an International Protected Person in Belgium).
  • Your minor children (= children under the age of 18)
  • Your adult children with disabilities

If you are an unaccompanied minor:

  • Your parents
  • Your minor siblings, adult disabled siblings provided they come with your parents

If you want to bring other family members to Belgium (e.g. your grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. ), a humanitarian visa may be the solution. As Belgian Red Cross-Flanders , we are not specialized in this and cannot give you any advice. You can find more information about a humanitarian visa on the website of the Integration and Integration Agency.

I am recognized refugee/subsidiary protected, what documents do I need to collect to apply for family reunification?

To apply for family reunification, you must demonstrate 2 things:

  1. Your residence status in Belgium.
  2. Your kinship with the persons you wish to bring to Belgium. 

Can Restoring Family Links support me financially to bring my family to Belgium?

No, Restoring Family Links cannot provide financial support. We only inform.

Can Restoring Family Links help obtain documents such as passports or visas?

No, Restoring Family Links cannot help obtain documents such as passports, visas or other documents.

Can Restoring Family Links help me fill out the online visa form?

No, Restoring Family Links only informs. However, you can watch the following video, which explains how to apply for an online visa form.

I am not married yet, but want to bring my girlfriend to Belgium. Is this possible?

You must be married or in a registered partnership to apply for family reunification.

I got married, but only after submitting my request for International Protection.

If you are married between the period of your arrival in Belgium and your recognition as a refugee or subsidiary protection status, this is called family formation. You can then bring your spouse to Belgium, but in addition to the conditions of family reunification, you will have to prove that you are married for love. You can provide this proof by showing that you have known each other for a long time, that you had regular contact before the marriage, that you met physically before the marriage,...

As Restoring Family Links, we do not support this procedure and recommend contacting a lawyer or specialized service for legal information.

I want to bring other family members to Belgium, can you help with a humanitarian visa?

No, Restoring Family Links does not specialize in humanitarian visas and cannot support them. We recommend contacting a lawyer or specialized service for legal information.

My family needs to provide a medical certificate. Where can I find the list of approved doctors?

You can find a list of embassy-approved doctors on the Belgian Embassy website.

I need to make an appointment at the embassy, how do I do this?

All contact information and information about making an appointment at Belgian embassies can be found on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.

I have applied for family reunification, when will I get the decision and where can I follow up on my file?

From the moment your family members have submitted the application for family reunification to the Belgian embassy abroad or the relevant intermediary office, it takes a maximum of 9 months to receive a decision (twice extendable by 3 months). You can also monitor the status of your file yourself via the Infovisa website.

Information sessions Restoring Family Links

Do you work in a shelter or other organization that could benefit from an information session on Restoring Family Links? If so, contact us to discuss this. We have RFL ambassadors who will come and explain our workings.

To do so, send a request to rfl@rodekruis.be stating 'info session RFL - no red cross file' in the subject line. 

How can you help?

Become a volunteer

Within Restoring Family Links, we have a diverse range of volunteer positions:

  • RFL ambassador: As an RFL ambassador you will travel through Flanders and Brussels to highlight the existence of our service. The goal of this publicity campaign is that everyone in Flanders and Brussels with a potential RFL need is aware of our service and knows how to contact us. Do you enjoy giving presentations and do you like to visit different locations to do so? Then this position might be for you.
  • Volunteer Case Manager: As a volunteer case manager (caseworker), you will interact directly with our target population. You welcome people with an investigation question, check with them what is possible and collect the necessary information so that a case can be started. Afterwards you follow up on the files and give feedback to the client by phone or email on the status of his/her file.
  • Volunteer Administrative Help: Are you computer literate and would like to do your part, without necessarily having to be up front or really in direct communication with our clientele? Then come and support us administratively.
  • Voluntary interpreter: Understanding each other well is of course essential to give an investigation file the highest possible chance of success. But also when we give information about the family reunification procedure, it is important that everything is well understood. We therefore regularly use an interpreter to remove the language barrier. Do you speak Dari, Pashtu, Tigrinya or Somali? Then we are looking for you! A vacancy for volunteer interpreter is permanently open. For the other profiles, this will be opened when the need arises. You can find them here.

Ask us your question about Restoring Family Links