Frequently Asked Questions
Kidnapping is a low-frequency, high-impact crime, which means that information can be difficult to find. Drawing on the experiences of the families we have helped, we have put together some frequently asked questions to help you to understand what might happen and where to go for help. This information is provided for guidance only; each kidnap is unique so there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
Hostage International has produced a series of ‘how to guides’ to help families to cope with a kidnap. These include:
A family’s guide to coping during a kidnapping;
A family’s guide to handling the media;
A Life After Captivity guide;
and a guide for employers on helping returning hostages back to the workplace.
Hostage International supports families and returning hostages when they have been affected by a kidnapping, usually outside of their home country, typically for a political or monetary concession. If your loved one has been kidnapped in another scenario, let us know and we will try and signpost you to a more suitable support organisation.
Hostage International does not engage in operational response to kidnaps. We cannot help to bring a hostage home, but we can offer support to help make the situation a little more bearable and to assist with the emotional and practical challenges.
Hostage International is a working name of Hostage International, a charity registered with the Charity Commission of England and Wales (number 1161072). We are independent of government and business interests. Our commitment is to the families and hostages affected by a kidnapping. As a small charity, we aim to keep our overheads low, so we work remotely where possible. We have two full-time member of staff; the rest of our services are delivered by volunteers. Our focus is on supporting families and hostages and improving organisational family support. As a result, Hostage’s growth is demand-led; we are not driven by organisational ambition.
Hostage International is a confidential service. We do not speak publicly or privately about who we are supporting, we do not report on conversations, and we neither deny nor confirm cases we are involved in, either now or in the past. Families are welcome to speak about us and the support they have received from us, but we will not identify our beneficiaries by name in any public context.
Hostage International rarely comments in or on the media. We focus our time and attention on supporting families and returning hostages and will only comment in the media where we feel there is an important need for it.
Hostage International supports families regardless of their location or origin. However, American residents should seek support from our sister charity, Hostage US and families based in the UK can refer to Hostage UK Hostage International.
If you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
If you are a family member, you should inform the police, the relevant government department (e.g. Foreign Office Consular Directorate (Special Cases Unit) in the UK) and the hostage’s employers, if they have not already been in contact with you.
If you are the employer: notify the family immediately and also the relevant police or government body.
Offer your support to those affected by the kidnap including the family, close friends and colleagues, but do not talk about the incident to others outside of this circle as this could jeopardise the hostage’s safety.
It is important to have good communication with the family and a relationship of trust, and so it is a good idea to maintain regular contact with them even if there are no immediate developments. The family may also find it beneficial to be in contact with the kidnap victim’s colleagues, or, if it is a group kidnap, with the families of the other victims.
Give the family different options of liaising with you directly about their needs or liaising with other organisations or independent individuals: some families or family members may want to have minimal contact with the hostage’s employer, while others may want to be much more closely involved.
Morale among the hostage’s colleagues and peers will be badly affected. As the employer, it is important that you demonstrate strong leadership of the case and maintain a steady flow of information to staff. By setting a good example, you will retain staff confidence and commitment, and ensure a healthy team environment. This will also help the hostage’s integration back into the workplace on his/her return.
The incident management team will be working under intense pressure and in difficult circumstances. Provide them with appropriate emotional support for them, during and after the kidnap crisis; it is vital that their needs are not forgotten.
The CIA World Factbook is a good source of key social, economic, and political information about every country: www.cia.gov
The Economist’s series of country briefings is a good source of recent current affairs coverage for most countries: www.economist.com
Be aware that reported kidnapping trends can be inaccurate; in regions of corrupt law enforcement, kidnapping may be unreported or may be exaggerated. There are organisations and companies that offer political/security analysis of local risks. Hostage International does not offer any endorsements.
Good communication with the immediate family is essential to understand their needs and the needs of the hostage, and to help reintegrate the hostage on their return.
The family and friends of the hostage may also form a good support network with the colleagues of the kidnap victim, and indeed between themselves, during the crisis.
If a kidnap occurs you need to act quickly to establish an incident management team to handle the case. However, you should also take time to review why the kidnap might have occurred and promptly put in place safeguards, such as additional training or security arrangements.
It is your responsibility to provide as much support as possible to the hostage’s family; you should offer specialist services, ensure they are central to all decisions and communications, and be available to help the family liaise with government agencies, private security companies, and law enforcement officials. You should also continue to pay the hostage’s salary.
If the hostage is released, they may not be fit to return to their full work responsibilities straightaway. You are urged to extend discretion to them as they recover from their ordeal, and to assist with providing any emotional support that may be necessary. You can share Hostage International’s details with the family and/or former hostage should they wish to have ongoing and independent support.
If you are an organisation that has other connections with the hostage or their family – for example, a bank or an education provider – you are urged to handle the family’s needs with sensitivity and discretion. Kidnapping is not a frequent crime which means that there may be a lack of provision for it in your standard policies and procedures. However, the hostage’s family are as much victims of the crime as the hostage, and handling their needs and the needs of the hostage with tact and compassion is good corporate social responsibility. Hostage International can offer you help and support in identifying needs and finding people to help.
If there are any behaviours or precautions that can be taken to minimize kidnap risk, then this must be done, and also staff must be asked to comply fully.
It is essential that you make staff aware of potential risks before they travel, so that they are better equipped to deal with a kidnap crisis. It is also important to discuss courses of action in the event of a kidnap incident in advance, and in a transparent way, so that staff and other parties have a shared understanding of likely next steps and know how best to co-operate.
If there are any behaviours or precautions that can be taken to minimise kidnap risk, then this must be done, and also staff must be asked to comply fully.
Be alert to the risks throughout the period abroad and have contingency plans and a crisis management team ready, so that you can take swift action at any time if necessary, and so that you are prepared for any of the consequences of a kidnap crisis.