At Least 13,500 Americans Abroad Need Help Getting Home, State Dept. Says


WASHINGTON — An estimated 13,500 Americans abroad have asked the State Department for help returning to the United States as the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in closed borders and suspended commercial flights, two senior officials said Monday.

About 5,700 additional U.S. citizens and legal residents have already been brought back on flights organized by the State Department, the officials said.

From Peru to Morocco to Japan, stranded Americans have pleaded for help getting home as the pandemic has spread. Over the next five days, the State Department will charter 16 flights around the world to bring home another 1,600 people, said one of the officials, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity because of department protocols on briefing the news media.

About 10 million American citizens live abroad, officials said. But the officials urged Americans who have homes overseas to consider hunkering down, underscoring that the travel assistance was designed for tourists and temporary expatriates, like students.

She said she was apprehensive that her passport could be canceled. “That just makes me nervous anytime someone messes with my passport any way,” Ms. Dillard, a Milwaukee native, said in an interview on Monday. She said she was also considering staying in Ghana.

A spokeswoman at the State Department in Washington did not have an immediate comment when asked about the notice to cancel stranded Americans’ passports.

Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, urged President Trump on Monday to “provide Americans overseas the support that they need” during what he called an “unprecedented pandemic.”

“No American should ever have to worry that they might be abandoned abroad by our government,” Mr. Menendez wrote in a letter to Mr. Trump.

The senior State Department officials said that in some cases, foreign governments had imposed restrictions to contain the virus that prevented American flights from departing.

One of the officials said that had been the case in Peru, where 15 students from Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina who were training to be paramedics and physician assistants were trying to leave.

The official said fewer flights were able to fly in and out of Peru because the international airport in Lima, the capital, had been shut down for the duration of the country’s quarantine. That means flights have had to fly through military airports, which do not have the capacity to manage all the additional air traffic.



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