There is an ongoing threat of kidnapping in many parts of the world.
This page provides general advice about what to do if you find out an Australian friend or family member has been kidnapped overseas. It covers:
- how to report an overseas kidnapping
- ransom and demands from kidnappers
- the Australian Government's role when an Australian is kidnapped overseas
- where to get help
If you can't contact an Australian overseas and there is no evidence of kidnapping, the person may be missing. See our advice on what to do if an Australian is missing overseas.
Report a kidnapping
Kidnapping is a crime. Report all crimes to the local authorities. Local police contacts are under 'emergency contacts' on each destination's travel advisory.
Also report the kidnapping to the 24-hour consular emergency centre on:
- +61 2 6261 3305 from overseas
- 1300 555 135 from within Australia
There are limits to how and when the Australian Government can assist when someone is kidnapped overseas. See the Consular Services Charter.
Ransom and demands
Kidnappers are often motivated by money. They can also be motivated by ideological or political reasons.
If you choose to concede to their demands, it doesn't always result in the victim’s release. Kidnappers don't always honour agreements.
The Australian Government does not make payments or concessions to kidnappers.
The kidnappers may demand a ransom from you to release the victim. Paying the ransom doesn't guarantee the kidnappers will release the victim.
Some kidnappers make further demands once you've paid.
Ransom payments to kidnappers, many of whom are associated with terrorist groups, can be used to fund subsequent terrorist attacks. Ransom payments to terrorist groups are likely to contravene Australian counter-terrorism financing laws.
The kidnappers may make demands. This could be as well as or instead of money. They may demand concessions from the local government, such as the release of a prisoner. The prisoner could be a terrorist, political prisoner or general criminal.
The Australian Government does not concede to kidnapper demands.
The Australian Government's role
The Australian Government may be severely limited in its ability to provide consular assistance in
- destinations where we advise against all travel and don't have a mission
- places where the security situation is particularly dangerous or access is difficult.
What we can do when someone is kidnapped overseas
Kidnappings are sensitive matters and involve many parts of the government both in Australia and overseas. We're limited in how and when we can help if an Australian is kidnapped overseas. The government of the destination where the kidnapping occurred is normally responsible for leading the response to it.
Where possible, we will
- work closely with the government of the destination in which the kidnapping has taken place, to try to resolve the situation safely inform families about what they can expect, and provide them with clear and timely updates on the situation. This helps the next of kin make informed decisions about what to do.
- put families in touch with specialist agencies and organisations that can offer practical and emotional support.
- meet Australian kidnap victims when released.
What the Australian Government can't do
The Australian Government does not make payments or concessions to kidnappers. Ransom payments to kidnappers, many of whom are associated with terrorist groups, can be used to fund subsequent terrorist attacks. Ransom payments to terrorist groups are likely to contravene Australian counter-terrorism financing laws.
- we can't pay ransoms or concede to demands
- we can't pass on demands to (or influence the decisions of) a foreign government
- we can't give you legal advice
- we can't conduct criminal investigations overseas
Where to get help
You can get help from the local authorities in the victim's destination. Local police contacts are on each destination's travel advisory.
You can get consular assistance from the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate.
In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact an Australian diplomatic mission, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.
- Understand how and when Consular Services can help
- Read about travelling with children
- What to do when an Australian is missing overseas
- Read the Attorney General's information about international parental child abduction
- ASIO's Outreach unit provides intelligence-based information on matters affecting the security of Australian businesses.
- Contact Lifeline Australia if someone you know has been kidnapped and you need personal support.
- Specialised organisations such as Hostage International can offer practical and emotional support.