Most of the children had been separated from their relatives for almost 10 years. Also included in the operation was one adult. Since 2000, the ICRC has brought 828 Sierra Leonean nationals back to their country, mainly by air, and returned them to their families.
More than a decade of internal armed conflict had forced these children to flee to refugee camps in Guinea, where they were identified and registered by the ICRC. Helping families torn apart by armed conflict to find each other again is a key part of the ICRC's humanitarian work.
Today the ICRC is still actively searching for the parents of about 200 unaccompanied Sierra Leonean minors sheltering in Guinea. As soon as a parent or other relative is located and both parties agree, the ICRC brings them back together.
Working closely with the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society, the ICRC also coordinates its tracing activities with UNHCR and various child protection agencies in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Restoring and maintaining family links is one of the organization's most longstanding activities. In 2004, the ICRC reunited 2,784 people -- most of them children -- with their families worldwide.
For further information, please contact:
Philippe Stoll, ICRC Freetown, tel.:
++232 76 821 506
Marco Jimenez, ICRC Geneva, tel.: ++4122 730 22 71 or ++ 4179 217 32