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Improved procedures for finding Australians missing overseas.

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Australian Bureau of Criminal Intelligence

P0 Box 1936. Canberra City 2601

Phone (02) 6243-5634

Facsimile (02) 6247-5380


Improved Procedures for Finding Australians Missing Overseas


A new approach to locating Australians who go missing overseas has been developed to help simplify investigation procedures, better coordinate authorities and provide greater support to missing persons' families and friends.


The Australian Bureau of Criminal Intelligence’s National Missing Persons Unit (NMPU) has been instrumental in developing the new procedures in conjunction with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and the Australian Federal Police (AFP).


To mark the initiative, a brochure outlining the new procedures and advice for the families of people who are missing overseas will be launched at 11am on Monday 4 May in the Treaties Room, ground floor, DFAT.


Director of the Australian Bureau of Criminal Intelligence, Mr John Ure, said the new procedures will ensure that both government and non-government resources are available to help resolve cases involving Australians who go missing overseas.


“The National Missing Persons Unit, DFAT and the AFP have combined their expertise to ensure there is a more efficient, united and streamlined approach to dealing with this particularly complex area of missing persons investigation,” Mr Ure explained.


“The resources of all agencies involved in the search for missing people, including the Red Cross, Salvation Army and International Social Service, will, where necessary, be available to locate a person and determine if they are safe and well.”


As part of the new investigation procedures, each agency will have specific duties:


Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Will be responsible for conducting preliminary inquiries to determine that there are genuine concerns for the safety and welfare of the person reported missing. DFAT will also contact Australian diplomatic missions where consular staff will begin inquiries with the local authorities.


Australian Federal Police

The Australian Federal Police National Response Centre will coordinate police investigations, both here and overseas. AFP will be responsible for helping the family or friends of the missing person complete a missing persons report that will provide investigators with the necessary information to start a search.


National Missing Persons Unit :

Will provide support services to all agencies involved in an investigation..

These services will include promoting cases via the Internet and, where necessary, contacting non-government agencies such as the Australian Red Cross International Tracing and Refugee Services, the Salvation Army Family Tracing Service and the International Social Service for assistance.


Head of Consular Services at DFAT, Mr John Oliver, said during 1996-1997, 1200 Australian citizens were reported missing overseas. There are currently 18 cases that remain unresolved.


“Anyone planning to travel overseas should always assess the safety risks of the country or region they intend to visit,” Mr Oliver advised. “If, for work reasons, a person has to travel to a country where there is military, political or civil unrest they should take every precaution to ensure their personal safety and welfare. Going into such areas can be dangerous for tourists and they should seek DFAT’s advice before doing so.”


Director of AFP’s International Division, Federal Agent David Schramm, reinforced the importance of staying in contact with family, friends or business colleagues when travelling abroad.


“Leaving a detailed itinerary with someone at home and keeping in regular contact with family and friends should be part of any travel arrangements,” he said.


“The missing person’s last contact, proposed destination, and identity of travelling companions are just some of the details investigators will need to start a comprehensive search.”


Anyone with genuine concerns for the safety and welfare of an Australian citizen overseas, should contact the Consular Operations Section of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on 1300 555 135 from anywhere in Australia for the cost of a local call.


For further information, or interview opportunities, contact:

* Ms Carol Kiernan, Coordinator, NMPU, (02) 6243 5669

* Ms Alexandra Borthwick, DFAT, (02) 6261 3680

* Mr Steve Jiggins, Director Media Liaison, AFP, (02) 62757647