My parents are alive! And now I know where my dad is

After 18 months alone on the run, the miracle has come true for Setarah from Afghanistan. Through Red Cross’ tracing service in Denmark she found her mother, and when she put up a photo on Red Cross’ Trace the Face website, she received another fantastic piece of news: Her father and younger brother are alive, and they are in Germany.

Setarah is struggling to fight back her tears as she tells the story of how her family got separated during an arduous flight from Afghanistan in the summer of 2015. Like so many other refugee families, they were sailing from Turkey to Greece in rubber dinghies. This would be the last time in a very long period that Setarah had contact with her family, which until their flight consisted of her father, mother, her older brother with his wife and three young children, her younger brother and herself.

"It was an absolutely dreadful, terrifying night, which has been a kind of nightmare for me ever since. We had to leave in the middle of the night, and there was a lot of tumult and confusion as we got in the boats. I suddenly discovered that the rest of my family had been placed in some of the other boats. I was just so incredibly frightened, Setarah recounts."

All I’m dreaming of now is that we can all be together again. I love my family, and I really hope that the authorities will soon let my mother and me go down to see my father and younger brother in Germany. I can hardly wait.

Scattered to the four winds

During the trip across the Mediterranean Sea, she clung to the hope of being able to find her family again once they reached the shore. But it turned out that the refugees in the three boats were not sailing to the same destination.

"My father and younger brother were in one boat, my mum was in another, and I was in a third. In Greece, we all spent a long time trying to find each other, but without success. Luckily, I found a place where I could stay safe for a couple of months, after which I continued the journey on my own, Setarah recounts. She was constantly afraid that she might have lost her family for good."

"Well, I was afraid that they might have drowned. I frequently heard stories like that,you see. Back in Afghanistan, my older brother was kidnapped by the Taliban, and I have no idea what has happened to him, his wife or their three young children. I’m really worried about all of them. After the boat trip, I was constantly afraid that I might be the only one left," Setarah says.


Trace the Face is a unique online tool for people who have lost contact with one or more family members. On the Trace the Face website, via the Red Cross, people searching for family members can upload a photo of themselves. The photos are printed on posters which are hung in asylum centres, at train stations, at border crossings, etc. in Europe. 

In this way, you can find family members either through the poster or the website. Right now, there are more than 3,977 photos on the website, and every month about 100 more are added. You can search on gender, age and country of origin. The only thing made public is the photo and the family relation to the person you are searching for. All other information, such as name and place of residence, is kept confidential with the Red Cross.

Se more on -  and on the Facebook page for migrants in Europe.

First mum, then dad and younger brother

After a difficult journey through Europe, Setarah arrived in Denmark in September 2016.

"I just moved on and had no real idea where I was. Luckily, someone from the Red Cross told me that you could search for your family, so I rushed to do that, the now 18-year-old Afghan girl recounts."

This turned out to be crucial. A few months after Setarah’s arrival in Denmark, the Red Cross Tracing Service was able to tell her that her mother was already in the country. Today, mother and daughter have been reunited and are living together in the Red Cross asylum centre in Jelling. And the age of miracles was not yet over.

"Here at the Red Cross asylum centre in Jelling, I was told that I could also search for family members in a different way, using an online search tool called ”Trace the Face”. One of the staff members helped me upload a photo to the site," Setarah explains.


Tracing family members through the Red Cross is a unique service based on our global network of Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies.

This work can be dated back as far as 1864. During the Second World War, the Red Cross also gathered information on prisoners of war and sent out more than 20 million letters and cards to their family members.

Since that time, tracing separated families in connection with wars, disasters, armed conflicts etc. has become one of the core tasks for the Red Cross. In the Tracing Service in Denmark, we assist about 700 people every year.

Dad and younger brother in Germany

At first, she was not at all sure that it was worth the effort uploading a photo among the nearly 4000 other refugees in Europe searching for family members – but then she received a phone call while she was at school.

"Someone from the Red Cross Tracing Service called me and said that they had had a reaction from a person in Germany who said he was my father. At first, I didn’t really believe it. But then I spoke with him on the phone, and it was like a gift from God. It was my dad’s kind voice, which I remember from when I was a little girl. It was absolutely fantastic. Now, I’m in frequent contact with both my dad and my younger brother who is with him in Germany."

"All I’m dreaming of now is that we can all be together again. I love my family, and I really hope that the authorities will soon let my mother and me go down to see my father and younger brother in Germany. I can hardly wait."


Setarah and her mother have recently had their applications for asylum in Denmark rejected. However, Setarah’s case will also be reviewed by the Danish Refugee Appeals Board. In the meantime, her father has been granted a residence permit in Germany, where he now lives with his youngest son. He is now applying for family reunification with his wife and daughter, Setarah.

Setarah’s photo on Trace the Face is one out of more than 3,977 pictures of refugees all over Europe, searching for family members. The website is a relatively new tool for tracing services in Red Cross Societies in Europe, which will make it easier for people to find each other again.