These are the restoring and maintaining family links services that SARCS offers. Volunteers can assist you with the free, confidential services based on your needs and circumstances.


Vulnerable people, including migrants, can make a free 3-minute national or international phone call to a relative or friend. Thirty-minutes of free Wi-Fi is also offered for people to use to contact relatives. Protecting Family Links (PFL) free services are offered at the following shelters on a weekly basis. Get in touch with the shelter or PFL coordinator in your area to confirm which day they will be there.



If the enquirer does not know the phone number of the sought person, but they have their address or approximate location, they can send a Red Cross Messages.

These are open letters with one part on which the sender can write a message and one part on which the relative can reply. Each part contains the name and full address of the sender and the addressee. The message may only contain family or private news. In some situations, for example in places of detention, Red Cross messages are read by the authorities before delivery. A picture or official documents can usually be enclosed with a Red Cross Message.

In most contexts, the messages are collected and delivered personally by National Society volunteers or staff of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Depending on local conditions and the distance involved, this may take some time. Red Cross Messages can also be delivered electronically.

Sometimes family messages can also be collected and delivered orally and by telephone.



If the contact details and exact location of the sought person are not known, SARCS can open a formal tracing request, provided enough information is given to us. In this case, SARCS will try to trace the missing relative’s whereabouts and/or offer the relative protection and assistance.

The purpose of tracing requests is to inform the enquirer of the whereabouts of a family member, restore contact and to locate the most vulnerable individuals in order to assist and protect them.



Once a tracing request has been opened for you, SARCS can add your photo to the Trace the Face website, with your consent. Trace the Face is a free, online tool to help reconnect family members who have lost contact due to migration. The Trace the Face website contains a vast photo gallery of people over the age of 18 who are looking for their relatives.

All that is published on the website is the enquirer’s photo and the nature of the family link to their missing relative. All other information (like your name, etc) will be kept confidential. People from around the world will be able to see your photo. If they recognise you and are willing to contact you, they can contact us through a form available on the website.

You can always decide to delete your photo from the website. Just inform us and we will take the necessary steps to do so. Minors are welcome to contact us and we will keep their data for tracing but their pictures will not be published.

To check if a family member in Southern Africa is looking for you, click here.

To check if a family member in Europe is looking for you, click here.

To publish your photo on the Trace the Face website, visit your nearest SARCS branch. See the list of branches below.





Protecting Family Links (PFL) is available only to people who have been separated from their relatives by the following:

  • Migration
  • Conflict or other situations of violence
  • Natural disaster

SARCS volunteers will discuss and assess the situation before deciding if they are able to assist, and if so, which tool will be the most appropriate. These services are available to all of the above people, regardless of their legal status in the country they are in. PFL is not a social service.



Go to your nearest SARCS branch to access PFL services or contact the national PFL officer. Here are the details of the branches and contact people that offer PFL services:

Provide the office with as much information you can about your missing family member. The PFL programme will use that information to try find your relative and put you back in touch.


Alain, who was separated from his cousin, John, for more than 20 years recalls how he felt when they were finally reconnected through the Protecting Family Links programme.