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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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 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.
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.