Getting help if someone goes missing abroad

What to do if a British national goes missing abroad, reporting it to the police and how the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and others can help.

First steps

Consider contacting anyone who might have information about where the missing person may be, including:

  • family or friends
  • people they were travelling with
  • their tour guide or holiday representative
  • their workplace
  • their bank, building society or internet service provider who may be able to tell you when and where their account was last accessed. The police may need to authorise this

To report a missing person contact the:

  • local authorities (usually the police) in the country where they went missing
  • UK police
  • Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO)
  • missing person’s insurance company – some policies cover search and rescue costs abroad. If you’re not sure if they have insurance check with their bank, tour operator or travel agent they booked with

Reporting the person as missing

Provide as much information as possible, for example:

  • name, date of birth and place of birth
  • passport details
  • the last place, date and time anybody had contact with them
  • travel itinerary and who they’re travelling with
  • if they have a medical condition
  • mobile phone number, email address and social media accounts
  • insurance details

Reporting the missing person to the foreign authorities

Report a missing person to the authorities in the country they went missing in. This will normally be the local police. They’re responsible for searching for the missing person.

The authorities may not accept a missing person report until a certain amount of time has passed. They may also not accept a report in English and you may have to arrange and pay for a translation.

If you know the missing person’s mobile phone IMEI number (the device’s unique 15-digit serial number), police may be able to use it to find the phone.

Reporting the missing person to the UK police

Report the person as missing to the UK police. They can ask Interpol (the International Criminal Police Organisation) to contact the police in the country where the person is missing. You can do this at any time and do not have to wait. You can do this with your local police, or the police where the missing person lives in the UK.

UK police do not usually become involved in an investigation abroad. They can only do this if asked to help by the authorities in that country.

Contacting the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO)

The FCDO can:

  • check if the missing person has been in contact with them. The FCDO can only pass information about this to you if they have the person’s consent
  • arrange for consular staff to meet you in person or remotely, help you contact the local authorities, keep in contact with you, and, where appropriate, let you know of any new developments
  • help you to arrange meetings with the local authorities if you travel abroad to look for the missing person
  • give you details of organisations in the UK and abroad specialising in missing people

The FCDO cannot:

  • carry out any physical searches for the missing person
  • fund any searches for the person or offer rewards for information
  • control how the media reports news of the missing person
  • share information with you if the person is found but does not give their permission to give it to you

You can report the missing person to the FCDO at any time. You do not have to wait until you can make a missing person report.

If you’re in the UK contact the FCDO 24/7 on +44 (0)20 7008 5000.

In another country contact the nearest British embassy or consulate.

Other organisations that could help

The National Crime Agency UK Missing Persons Unit has:

These organisations can offer help and information to families of missing people abroad:

  • LBT Global: a UK charity supporting families and friends of people who are missing abroad
  • Missing People: a UK charity dedicated to helping bring missing people back to their families
  • Children and Families Across Borders (CFAB): a UK charity working to reunite children and their families separated by international borders
  • Look 4 Them: a website with links to UK organisations that can help you find relatives in the UK and abroad
  • Missing Persons Family Tracing: The Salvation Army Family tracing service
  • British Red Cross: an international tracing and message service to help find missing relatives abroad if they have been separated by war, natural disaster or migration


The FCDO welcomes your views on the support it provides, to help identify what it does well and what it could do better. Contact the FCDO using the feedback contact form.


Read the disclaimer relating to this guidance.

Published 31 August 2022