Someone is missing overseas
It can be very upsetting if you lose contact with a relative or friend who's overseas.
There's often a reason why people lose contact when travelling. It could be that they can't keep in touch due to limited internet or mobile coverage. They may just be busy, or not want to be contacted.
However, they could be in trouble. Still, don't assume the worst just because you can't get in touch. Most Australians are found safe and well.
This page is for family and friends of an Australian who may be missing overseas. Read this page for general advice on:
- how to find a missing person overseas
- what happens next
- who else can help you find a missing person
- what you must do if the person makes contact
It's important you understand how and when the Australian Government can help. In particular, we can't conduct investigations overseas. Only local authorities can. Read the Consular Service Charter.
How to find a missing person overseas
Don't contact our Consular Emergency Centre (CEC) as a first step. If you're concerned about the person's welfare there's many things you can do first to try locating your loved one.
- Try to make contact directly, through all possible channels
- Contact their friends or travel companions, or others who may know their movements
- You may also file a missing person's report at your local police station in Australia for someone who is missing overseas
Police may refer the case to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) or may advise you to do so. DFAT will ask you about the steps you have already taken in attempting to contact your loved one.
Step 1 – try to make contact
You first need to take steps to determine if the Australian is missing or in trouble. They may just be busy, or want to be left alone.
Try to contact the person via:
- social media
- mail, if you have their address overseas
You can also check social media sites for any recent updates.
Step 2 – contact others who may be in touch with them
If you can't get in touch with the person directly, contact others. It's possible someone else knows where they are and can confirm they're OK.
Contact people who know them
- Reach out to family, friends and travelling companions. Check if anyone has heard from the person.
- Find out if their travelling companions' families have heard from their loved ones. They may also have news about yours.
Contact third parties who may know where they are
- Tell the person's bank about your concerns. If you can, check their latest credit or debit card transactions. You may need the assistance of your local police station to do this.
- Ask someone at their last known address, or their employer, about their possible movements.
- Tell their travel agent or airline about your concern. If you can, get details of their travel arrangements.
- Ask their airline to place an alert on their reservation. If they access it, the person will get a request to make contact.
- Ask their mobile phone provider if there's been any activity on their account.
Be aware that third party organisations may not be able to share some information with you. They may be bound by privacy laws. However, they may be able to share information with the police, once you've filed a report.
Step 3 – file a missing person report
If you still can't find your loved one, contact your local police in Australia.
You can file a missing person report at your local state or territory police station. For the report, the police will need the person's:
- 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 details people they have been travelling or working with
- last known contact
What happens next in an overseas missing persons case
The police may lodge a report with DFAT and a consular official 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 can only pursue missing person cases if:
- there's a serious concern for the person's welfare
- we believe the person needs consular assistance
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. Local investigations are a matter for local authorities.
Read the Consular Services Charter.
DFAT has to abide by the Privacy Act 1988, and other laws, around personal information.
Unless a person consents, consular officials can't give you the person's personal information. The only exceptions are if:
- the police or Australian law requires it
- we judge that there's a threat to the life or health of the person or someone else
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. If this happens, we may not be able to tell you we've found them.
If we collect your personal information to provide you with consular assistance, we will only use and disclose your personal information for that purpose, unless otherwise permitted by the Privacy Act. For details, read our consular privacy collection statement.
What you must do if the missing person makes contact
If your missing person contacts you after you've started formal enquiries, tell DFAT and your 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 find a missing person overseas
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 NMPCC helps coordinate searches for missing people in Australia and can provide useful advice and guidance. It works with:
- state and territory police services
- non-government organisations
The centre gives information to the public via its website. State and territory police provide the NMPCC with missing persons cases, including overseas cases. However, they must have a signed authority from the next of kin for the use of images and information.
Call the NMPCC on 1800 000 634 (toll-free).
Australian Red Cross
The International Red Cross or Red Crescent has a global network across more than 190 countries. Their restoring Family Links service helps people re-establish contact with loved ones. They help reconnect people separated by war, conflict, disaster or migration.
The service is free, confidential and available to anyone in Australia.
Learn more about Restoring Family Links (Australian Red Cross).
International Social Service
The International Social Service (ISS) helps people trace immediate family members. ISS provides family tracing and reunification services. It delivers this service in conjunction with its social work across 150 countries.
It requests a contribution towards costs for this work.
Learn more about the International Social Service (ISS).
- See our fact sheet on missing persons.
- Request emergency consular assistance.
- What to do is someone is arrested or jailed overseas.
- What to do when an Australian dies overseas.
- Find contact details for Australian embassies or consulates overseas (DFAT).
- Learn about the National Missing Persons Coordination Centre (NMPCC) (Australian Federal Police).
- Help for migrants tracing family members and finding missing loved ones (Red Cross).
- Get help to find missing family members overseas (International Social Service).
Crises that affect a large number of Australians overseas usually require a response beyond our normal consular services.
Terrorism remains a threat to Australians living and travelling overseas. Before you travel overseas, it's important to understand the risk of terrorism worldwide.