Losing contact with someone who's travelling overseas can be very distressing. This brochure will help you know what to do if someone has gone missing overseas.
There's often a reason why people lose contact when travelling. Maybe they can't keep in touch due to limited internet or mobile coverage. They may be busy or not want to be contacted. Don't assume the worst just because you can't get in touch. Most Australians are found safe and well.
The Australian Government will do what it can to help people contact their loved ones. However, we can only do this where there is a well-founded concern. There are also legal and practical limits to what we can do.
What can you do?
These are the first steps to take if you're concerned about someone's welfare
If you have urgent concerns for their welfare
Don't delay. Contact your nearest police if you believe the person is at immediate risk of harm.
Try to make contact, through all possible channels
Try to contact the person through
- social media.
Check their social media accounts for any recent activity.
Contact others who may be in touch with them
Reach out to people who know them, such as
- travelling companions to find out if others have heard from them
- a hotel manager or landlord of the place they're staying.
Find out from the families of their travelling companions if they have heard from their loved ones.
You can also contact third parties who may know where they are. Tell their bank about your concerns. Check the details of their latest credit/debit card transactions. You may need help from your local police station to do this.
- Ask someone at their known address about their possible movements.
- Ask their employer when they last showed up to work.
- Tell their travel agent or airline about your concerns. If you can, get the details of their travel arrangements.
- Tell the airline to place an alert on their flight reservation. If they access it, the person will get a request to make contact.
- Ask their mobile phone provider to check for any activity on their account.
Be aware that some third parties may not give you information due to privacy rules. We canít force them to disclose personal information.
Some important things to remember when trying to find a person overseas
- Most Australians are found safe and well. Try to stay calm and ask for support from friends and family if you need it.
- Gather as much information as possible from your enquiries.
- Keep a record of all the information you gather. This will help you give details to others helping to find the person.
Who can help you?
If, after your enquiries, you still can't find the person and have serious concerns for their safety or welfare, contact your local police in Australia.
Submit a missing persons report
You can submit a missing persons report at your local state or territory police station.
For the report, the police will need the personís:
- full name
- place and date of birth
- passport number (if known)
- details of any other citizenship or passports held (if known)
- recent photographs
- known travel details and plans, including itineraries
- contact details overseas
- names and contact details of people they have been travelling or working with
- last known contact.
What happens next?
The police may lodge a missing persons report with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) if necessary. A consular officer will contact you. You may also lodge a report directly with DFAT as well. A consular official will talk to you about what steps you have already taken to contact your loved one and what the Australian Government can and can't do.
DFAT will only carry out enquiries if
- there's a serious concern for the person's welfare
- we believe the person needs consular assistance.
If we assess that the missing person overseas needs consular help, we will:
- conduct enquiries using Australian embassies, high commissions and consulates to try to locate the whereabouts of the missing person
- contact and provide information to you on any developments where permitted.
We'll do what we can to help you find your missing person. However, it's important to understand our limits.
In particular, consular officials can't actively investigate missing persons overseas, these investigations are a matter for local authorities. Privacy rules in other countries can also restrict the information given to consular staff by local authorities.
The Consular Service Charter sets out the standards of service all Australians can expect to receive from consular staff, including what we can and can't do. Read the charter at smartraveller.gov.au/charter.
Privacy of consular clients
Personal information provided to DFAT is protected by law, including the Privacy Act 1988.
We can't give you the person's personal information without their consent. The only exceptions are:
- the police or Australian law require it
- we judge that there's a threat to life or health of the person or someone else.
We may give personal information to local authorities where it's necessary to provide consular help. Sometimes, foreign law enforcement agencies can't share information with our consular staff. They may have privacy restrictions.
Sometimes we find the missing person, but they don't want their family or friends to know. We can't pass on personal information if the missing person has chosen to withhold contact for legitimate reasons, including removing themselves from harmful environments. If this happens, we may not tell you we've found them.
You can find details about how we collect, use, disclose and store personal information in our Consular Privacy Collection Statement. Copies of the statement are available at smartraveller.gov.au/privacy#statement or by requesting a copy from DFAT.
What you must do if the missing person makes contact
If the person contacts you after you have reported them missing, inform DFAT and the local police immediately.
- contact the nearest Australian diplomatic mission, or
- call the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305.
This means we can close the file and free up resources to help others in need.
Who else can help you?
Depending on the circumstances, other organisations may be able to help you search for a missing person overseas.
National Missing Persons Coordination Centre
The National Missing Persons Coordination Centre (NMPCC) is part of the Australian Federal Police (AFP).
The centre helps coordinate finding missing people in Australia and overseas. It works with:
- state and territory police services
- non-government organisations.
The Centre provides information to the public via it's website.
Only the police can provide the NMPCC with cases. The next of kin must have provided signed authority to use images and information of the missing person.
Call the NMPCC at 1800 000 634 (toll-free) or visit missingpersons.gov.au/nmpcc.
Australian Red Cross
The International Red Cross or Red Crescent has a global tracing network across more than 190 countries. Their Restoring Family Links service helps people re-establish contact with loved ones.
They provide the service to the public free of charge.
You can contact the Australian Red Cross on 1800 875 199. More information is available at redcross.org.au.
International Social Service
The International Social Service (ISS) helps people trace immediate family members. It does this in conjunction with its social work across 150 countries.
It requests a contribution towards costs for this work.
More information and contact details are available at iss.org.au.
If you need urgent mental health support overseas, contact our Consular Emergency Centre at +61 2 6261 3305. A consular officer can transfer you to a Lifeline telephone crisis supporter.
This information has been prepared carefully. However, the Australian Government can't be held responsible if the information here leads to injury, loss or damage of any sort. "Australian Government" includes employees, agents, and diplomatic and consular staff overseas.
Consular and Crisis Management Division
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, RG Casey Building
John McEwen Crescent BARTON ACT 0221
Tel. (02) 6261 3305; 1300 555 135
Travel advice is available from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Tradeís Smartraveller website Smartraveller.gov.au.