Search for Missing Persons: A Guidebook

War divides – not only in a political, ideological, or territorial sense, but also literally. Many people lose contact with each other during the chaos of war or while fleeing, both within Ukraine and after crossing the border in search of shelter. Parents and relatives are searching for thousands of children taken to camps in the occupied territories or deep into Russia.

Not only Ukrainian citizens are disappearing, but also others involved in the invasion that began in 2014 and turned into a bloody war eight years later: journalists, foreign fighters, representatives of NGOs, Ukrainian and Russian soldiers.

Report of a Missing Person: Step by Step

The search method differs depending on who and in which country is missing. Below we indicate the places where one can seek help, as well as the first steps to be taken as a searcher.

My Relative Went Missing in Ukraine: Where to Seek Help

First of all, you should contact friends and relatives who may have information about the whereabouts of the missing person, and check the places where they would most likely go in a crisis situation.

The next step is to call the emergency numbers 103 or 1503 (from within Ukraine), where you can get information about recently admitted hospital patients, or in other European countries, call the number 112.

If there is a confirmed suspicion of disappearance, contact the National Police of Ukraine. This can be done by calling 102 and the free 24-hour number 0800500202, as well as by email at [email protected].

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In addition, reports can be made to the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs and the National Information Bureau at 1648. People calling from abroad should dial +380 44 287 81 65. The hotline operates 24 hours a day.

There is also a Missing Persons Ombudsman for Special Circumstances in Ukraine. They coordinate a hotline for searchers, both relatives of military personnel and civilians, and cooperate with the National Information Bureau of the Ministry of Reintegration:

  • the hotline operates at 0800 339 247 and is open from Monday to Friday from 9:00 to 18:00;
  • on weekends, information is received remotely through Telegram and Viber platforms (at 095 896 0421);
  • emails can be sent to [email protected].

In the protocol of disappearance, you should provide detailed information about the person, passport data, description of appearance with any special marks (appearance traits, presence of tattoos and scars, clothes that the person was wearing at the time of disappearance, etc.), as well as other data that may help in the search (mobile phone number, car information, etc.).

Bases for Searching

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After an official report is filed, other channels of search can be activated. The most important ones are:

  • a Telegram channel, which is one of the largest bases for searching for missing children and adults, easy to navigate thanks to hashtags with the names of cities. You can join it here;
  • a Telegram chat – to use it, you need to fill out a Google form, which will then be sent to territorial defense volunteers;
  • a chatbot for searching for missing persons in Kharkiv – detailed information about the missing person will be needed, which we will provide by answering questions contained in the form;
  • the general database of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The Ukrainian MIA also collects information on lost items, weapons, has a database of unidentified bodies and people who cannot provide information about themselves (missing children, sick and elderly people who have difficulty identifying themselves). You can find it here.

Non-governmental organizations also provide assistance in searches. The Itaka organization has published a guide for Ukrainian citizens explaining what procedures to follow and how to report a missing person step by step.

I Have Lost Contact with a Close Person in Poland: What Should I Do?

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Ukrainian citizens can learn how to report a missing person in Poland by using a website created by the Itaka Foundation. Completing a short form allows Itaka to quickly take action, including notifying partner organizations in other European countries (such as Missing Persons International Network or Missing Children Europe).

Following Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, the Missing Persons Search Center of the Polish National Police Headquarters was established in Poland:

  • people calling from within the country can contact the center at +48 47 72 123 07, or
  • by email at [email protected], to report and receive information about missing persons who crossed the border into Poland during the war.

UNHCR also supports the search for missing relatives and reuniting dispersed families. More information can be found here:

In addition, reports can be made to the National Information and Search Bureau of the Polish Red Cross. The PCK collaborates with many organizations throughout Europe, allowing for quick action and international search efforts.

Where to Report a Missing Child?

Special tools are dedicated to searching for children. The Office of the President, in cooperation with UNICEF and the Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine, has created the chatbot that allows you to report missing children, among other things.

In Ukraine, in addition to the above-mentioned institutions, Magnolia NGO Foundation, the Ukrainian operator of the pan-European 116 000 Missing Children and Adolescents Hotline, and Save Ukraine, an organization searching for the youngest children forcibly deported to Russia or its occupied territories, also conduct search operations.

Missing Children Europe and the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children also support the search for Ukrainian children.

If a child has gone missing on Polish territory, the disappearance should be reported to the Missing Persons Search Centre of the Police Headquarters at +48 47 72 510 05. It is also possible to talk to a police officer online.

I Suspect Someone Has Become a Victim of Human Trafficking: What Should I Do?

The entity that receives information is the Human Trafficking Division of the Criminal Bureau of the Polish National Police. If there is suspicion that a disappearance is related to human trafficking, sexual offenses, pedophilia or child pornography, contact the Division using one of the following methods:

Email: [email protected] Phone: +48 47 72 56 502, Phone: +48 664 974 934.

The last hotline is also used to contact non-governmental organizations providing support to victims of these crimes.