Monday, July 21, 2014

Tip of the Day: How Many Foreign Travelers Actually Disappear While Abroad?

The short answer is: "Far too many foreign travelers disappear abroad."

In actuality, my instincts tell me that the actual numbers of foreigners who disappear while abroad is much, much greater than most people can even comprehend.

Before we continue further on this topic, it is appropriate for me to share a bit of regretful honesty with you:

Even though I'm retired from the US Department of State's Bureau of Diplomatic Security where I served as a special agent and several assignments as a Senior Regional Security Officer (SRSO), I'm embarrassed to say that the US Foreign Service does a less than credible job in both assisting US citizens who have died under suspicious conditions abroad as well as those who disappear.

Two websites I've run across of late include:

http://www.americanownnews.com

http://www.missingabroad.org

In a review of http://www.missingabroad.org, the resource lists at least twenty people who are currently missing. That's one website.

One document, released by the Australian Government's  Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is: 

http://www.smarttraveller.gov.au

http://www.missingoverseas.pdf, is one of the best resources I've reviewed on the subject and recommend it highly to all friends and families of those who have disappeared, regardless of nationality.

See the below website for a list of hikers who have been listed as missing:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/missing-hiker

For a list of US citizens who remain missing, see:  

http://missingamericans.ning.com

Unfortunately, to my knowledge, I am unaware of any database that systematically tracks all foreign nationals that have disappeared from their country of origin. Such a database is vitally needed.

Having worked on the US Missing Persons Program in Cyprus as Chief Investigator for a number of years, I have an intimate sense of knowing what it is like to begin looking for several missing people after a trail that has gone cold for 25 years or longer. 

That being said, I was successful in finding the remains of the principal I was looking for and returned his remains to his family.

Over the years, I have been very successful in finding out what happened to a number of foreign travelers who have disappeared, and would be happy to take on unsolved cases. I can be reached at:

ed@sbrisksolutions.com

Located below is a list of strategies that all friends and family members concerned with loved ones disappearing abroad should be vigilant about:

1. Ask the traveler if he/she has printed off his/her destinations to be visited from the appropriate foreign affairs agency? If they don't acknowledge, INSIST;

2. Ask travelers to have their fingerprints prepared by a law enforcement agency BEFORE initiating travel;

3. Take frontal and left and right side close-up photos of travelers BEFORE initiating travel;

4. Ask the traveler for an alternate email address if the primary address encounters difficulty;

5. Ask the traveler for their blood type if not known;

6. Register the traveler's itinerary with their appropriate foreign affairs agency;

7. Ensure that before departure abroad travelers subscribes to international medical treatment and evacuation insurance, including REPATRIATION OF THEIR REMAINS if they disappear and/or die while abroad;

8. To purchase international medical treatment and evacuation coverage see:

http://www.insuremytrip.com;

9. Families and friends should ask travelers to send them a DAILY email stating "that all is well and that they've encountered no unusual problems";

10. Families and friends should ask travelers for copies of flight itineraries, hotels they'll be staying at (including country codes and telephone numbers) and the phone numbers of at least THREE of people they are closest to; and

11. Pray!