Senators Urge State Department to Help Rescue Stranded Americans

By Masooma Haq
Masooma Haq
Masooma Haq
Masooma Haq began reporting for The Epoch Times from Pakistan in 2008. She currently covers a variety of topics including U.S. government, culture, and entertainment.
March 20, 2020Updated: March 20, 2020

Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) has become the most recent lawmaker to call on the State Department to expedite the safe return of dozens of U.S. citizens stranded internationally in the midst of the travel restrictions aimed at the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.

The Epoch Times refers to the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, as the CCP virus because the Chinese Communist Party’s coverup and mismanagement allowed the virus to spread throughout China and create a global pandemic.

In a Thursday press statement, Hawley said that many of his constituents are stranded in foreign countries including Guatemala, Honduras, the Philippines, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Peru.

“We have been in contact with these Missourians, many of whom were trying to help and spread the gospel on a mission trip. My staff and I continue to do everything we can to bring them home immediately,” he said.

A day earlier, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to express their “urgent concern” for U.S. citizens trapped abroad during the pandemic, including Americans in Honduras, Morocco, Peru, and Tunisia. Many of them told the senators that the local embassies had been of little help.

“We are particularly concerned about an increasing number of reports that Americans and their family members have been unable to leave areas affected by COVID-19 and return home,” senators wrote in their letter. “In particular, Americans in Honduras, Morocco, Peru and Tunisia, among other countries have reported to our offices that they are encountering difficulties in obtaining support from U.S. Embassies and Consulates, including to arrange commercial flights home.”

The lawmakers asked Secretary Pompeo to clarify the department’s efforts to help expedite the return of Americans via commercial or government-chartered flights, and to aid those unable to do so.

The ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations committee, Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), sent a letter on Wednesday to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to request his help in getting citizens home safely.

“We write to express our urgent concerns regarding the support being provided to citizens overseas, including those seeking to return to the United States, as the spread of coronavirus continues to impose significant challenges for governments and communities worldwide,” he wrote.

It is unclear whether Secretary Pompeo has directly responded to the senators’ letter.

However, staff at the State Department have been continually updating information regarding evacuation options for Americans on its embassy websites, and where services are currently available, encouraging citizens to register immediately with the airline offering the service.

Hundreds of Americans in Peru have been imploring the U.S. government to help them get flights out of the country after Peru shut down its borders for 15 days beginning Monday and canceled all flights.

The State Department said that Avianca Airlines had notified its Embassy in Peru that it is urgently asking travelers interested in flights departing from Lima and Cusco to register on their online signup page.

The rapidly changing situation, with border closures and flight cancelations, has given Americans little time and options to get flights back to the United States.

Menendez said providing support and assistance to Americans abroad “are among the Department’s most fundamental responsibilities.”

The State Department has been advising U.S. citizens to register at to help the U.S. Embassy contact them in an emergency. Citizens are also advised to monitor the U.S. embassies’ websites for updates.

The senators are encouraging stranded constituents to reach out to their offices as well.