Refugees from war, oppression, persecution and cruelty can wander this world for an increasingly long time before they can find kindness, acceptance and help from those who, through a twist of fate, have been more fortunate. An added cruelty to the blighted lives of refugees can be the wrenching apart of families, of parents separated from children, of husbands from wives, siblings from one another, by fenced borders, arbitrary rulings, violent invasions, resettlement policies. As if they were clinging to different bits of wreckage in the open sea, they are pulled further and further apart.
The International Committee of the Red Cross and the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have for some time been running a programme to help such families, called Restoring Family Links (Rétablissement des Liens familiaux), using the acronym RFL. They use a variety of documents, photographs and records in their effort to help refugees and migrants reconnect with or at least know what happened to their lost relatives.
At the end of last year, the French government relented a bit in its fierce protection of individuals' privacy (which has, as we have written before, imposed a closure of birth, marriage and death records for a significant period of time to protect the privacy of all persons mentioned in them) and passed a law allowing the nation's archives to grant RFL access to the closed archives for the purpose of reuniting families. This is explained in full on the LinkedIn page of Marie Ranquet, the curator of the Archives de France. A laudable bit of humanitarianism, we find.
We are contacted fairly regularly by people seeking to find missing family members. They tend not to be the refugees or migrants of today's disasters, but older people whose families were divided by earlier events and migrations. Where their searches have required access to more recent French records, we have been unable to help. This new legislation could provide some hope and possibly some success to those of you who have presented us with such quests.
The RFL will help anyone whose family was separated by migrations and wars -- including World War Two -- or crises or attendant bureaucratic cruelties. Try the RFL search, which is very simple and easy to use, and is in English, French and other languages, to begin the process. We wish you the best of luck.
©2017 Anne Morddel