My friend or relative is missing outside of the UK, who should I talk to?

When a friend or relative goes missing abroad the police in the country where they were last known to be will have responsibility for searching for them.

It is important to distinguish between people who have been travelling and keeping in regular contact with family and friends and who are now believed to be missing, and those with whom families have lost contact over a number of years. If you wish to trace someone with whom you have long ago lost contact, you may need to employ the services of a solicitor or a tracing agency.

If you suspect that a relative or friend is missing abroad you should contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 and ask for Consular Directorate, stating the country in which you think the person is missing, if possible. If you are abroad yourself, contact the nearest British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate.

It is important that you provide as much information as possible about the missing person, for example:

  • name, date and place of birth
  • passport details
  • insurance details
  • itinerary
  • the last place, date and time contact was made
  • mobile phone number/email address.

You, or a relative in the UK, should report the person missing to your local police in the UK with a specific request that they inform the UK National Central Bureau of Interpol, who have resources and jurisdiction to investigate missing persons and liaise with foreign police.

You should be aware that responsibility for conducting searches overseas rests with the local police force abroad. UK police forces sometimes become involved by assisting with matters such as enquiries into a missing person’s financial transactions. Only occasionally do UK police forces become more actively involved in the investigation and they can only do so at the invitation of the government of the country in which your relative or friend is missing.

International police co-operation is agreed and co-ordinated through Interpol (you should note that Interpol do not accept enquiries from members of the public).

It can be a frustrating experience especially when you might not speak the language of that country and it might be that you can seek help from voluntary organisations in that country to act as an intermediary on your behalf.

The Home Office have produced a leaflet which may help to explain the process of reporting someone as missing when they are not in the UK.

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