When the ICRC began visiting detainees on the pacific islands of Papua New Guinea in 2012, it discovered many detainees had not seen or had lost touch with their families for years. A combination of limited postal and phone services, prohibitive travel costs and vast distances had led detainees to lose hope of that changing.
To tackle the problem, the ICRC and the Papua New Guinea Red Cross began delivering Red Cross Messages between detainees and their families. This proved a painstaking business, with many families living in remote villages sometimes only reachable by canoe, but the impact of these messages was huge. Families were often overwhelmed at receiving a sign of life from loved ones lost to them for years, while for detainees it proved a crucial lifeline to the outside world.