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 UK has produced a series of ‘how to guides’ to help families to cope with a kidnap. These include: (please click to access) A family’s guide to coping during a kidnapping
A family’s guide to handling the media and A Life After Captivity: reintegration guide.

Hostage UK 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, pastoral and practical challenges.

Hostage UK is a charity committed to keeping its overheads to an absolute minimum. We do not have an office, we have only 2 staff, one part-time and one full-time, and the rest of our services are delivered by volunteers. This means that our focus is on families and hostages and not on empire building and organisational growth for its own sake.

Hostage UK is an independent organisation. We are registered with the Charity Commission (1161072), and are independent of government and business interests. Our only focus is on families and returning hostages.

Hostage UK 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 never discuss these issues.

Hostage UK rarely comments on the media. We have limited staff and volunteer resources so focus their time and attention on supporting families and returning hostages. We will only comment in the media where we feel there is an important need for it.

Hostage UK does not just support families who are in the UK or who are related to British citizen or resident hostages. We continue to provide support to hostages and their families in a number of countries other than the UK. We might not be able to offer the full range of assistance, but we will always try our best to do what we can.

If you have further questions or feel there are areas we should cover in this FAQ section, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Do notify the hostage’s family, the police, and the Foreign Office Consular Directorate (Special Cases Unit) as soon as you can.

Do support the immediate family of the kidnap victim and the front line staff in the incident management team.

Do maintain good communication with relevant government bodies and local contacts.

Don’t act on speculation or rumours, or be pressurised into a course of action.

The kidnap victim’s family may be undergoing a form of trauma. Do provide any psychological support that may be necessary and offer as much practical support as is feasible.

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 employer, others may want to be much more closely involved.

The hostage’s immediate colleagues may have feelings of shock, guilt, and fear. Do provide appropriate psychological support for them, and also consider creating a support network for them with the family and friends.

Morale among the hostage’s colleagues and peers will be badly affected. 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. Do provide appropriate psychological support for them, during and after the kidnap crisis; it is vital that their needs are not forgotten.

There are organisations and companies that offer kidnap crisis resolution services or security incident management services. Hostage UK does not offer any endorsements.
The Foreign Office Consular Directorate website has travel advice by country: www.fco.gov.uk

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 kidnapping trends can change quickly or 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 UK does not offer any endorsements.

The survival rate in kidnapping is high. The greatest risk is during or just after the abduction, in case of wounding during abduction or in case of any medical conditions in the kidnap target. Once a kidnap has occurred, though, the risk to the kidnap target is significantly lower.
The wider group of family and friends of the kidnap victim can be immensely helpful in supporting the immediate family.

Good communication with the immediate family is essential to understand the needs of the hostage, to assist the work of your incident management team, and to help reintegrate the kidnap victim on his/her return.

The family and friends of the kidnap victim may also form a good support network with the colleagues of the kidnap victim during the crisis.

Hostage UK does not advise on ransom payment. Many governments have a long-standing policy not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. This is because paying ransoms and releasing prisoners may increase the risk of further hostage taking. It may be tempting to try to pay the ransom yourself, but you should be aware that there are many risks involved. Because most kidnaps take place in regions with poor infrastructure, it can be difficult to get the ransom payment to the hostage-takers safely. Another danger is that you might pay the ransom but the kidnappers might not release the hostage, or the people you have paid the ransom to might not be the people who are holding your employee hostage. If you have taken out K&R insurance, then your insurers will liaise with private security companies to assess and handle these risks on your behalf. Also be aware that the payment of ransoms is illegal in some countries.
Hostage UK does not advise on media strategy.
Under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, an organisation that has sent an employee to a dangerous area is responsible for that employee’s safety. The Act states that employers have a duty of care to their employees, and requires employers to notify employees of any risk they know about. It is good practice to offer clear travel safety advice to employees travelling to areas where there is a risk of kidnapping, and for high risk environments you might consider offering specialist training on how to cope with a kidnap.

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 an employee of your organisation but the kidnap occurred outside of their employment, you are urged to continue paying their salary for as long as feasible as part of good corporate social responsibility. You are also urged to offer as much support as possible to their family and colleagues. Illustrating a commitment to support in such circumstances can have an enormous impact on staff morale.

If the hostage is released, he/she 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 pastoral support that may be necessary. You can contact Hostage UK for guidance on the kind of help they might need.

If you are the employer of the hostage’s relatives, you are urged to treat them with compassion as they will be under immense stress and are likely to exhibit symptoms of trauma. The hostage’s family are as much victims of this crime as the hostage himself/herself. The family may be suffering some of the shock and grief of a bereavement, but without the “closure” that can come with mourning. It is uncertain how long a kidnap may last or how the crisis might develop, and it is best to be as flexible as possible.

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 and will help you avoid possible negative publicity. Hostage UK can offer you help and support in identifying needs and finding people to help.

Yes. Although our primary function is to help British victims of a kidnap or their family members, we are happy to work with employers and organisations based overseas as much as our resources and expertise allow.
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 minimize 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.