WASHINGTON, D.C. [03/18/20]—With a growing number of countries closing their borders due to the spreading coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) is pressing U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to quickly implement plans to get information and assistance to Minnesotans and other Americans trapped abroad so they can safely travel home.
In a letter to Pompeo Tuesday, Sen. Smith said her office has been in contact with numerous Minnesotans trapped in countries that have closed their borders—like Peru and Morocco—leaving them with no access to commercial flights or other transportation. With other countries expected to follow suit and close borders, Smith said the number of U.S. citizens needing State Department assistance will only grow. On Wednesday, Sen. Smith said her office has also heard from Minnesotans in Chile, Latvia, Guatemala, Honduras, and Ecuador.
“Currently, my office is in contact with numerous U.S. citizens trapped in Morocco and Peru, with no access to commercial flights or other transportation,” said Sen. Smith in her letter Tuesday to Secretary Pompeo. “As the global community continues to manage this crisis, we expect that many other countries will follow suit. Therefore, we expect the number of U.S. citizens needing State Department assistance to return to the U.S. to grow substantially in the coming hours. Our citizens need immediate assistance and clarity of communication.”
Specifically, Sen. Smith pressed Secretary Pompeo for answers to the following questions:
- How is the State Department planning to facilitate the return of U.S. citizens who have no access to commercial flights in countries that implement travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 outbreak?
- How is the State Department planning to communicate those plans to U.S. citizens trapped abroad?
- Countries such as England and France have been able to evacuate their citizens from countries that have already restricted travel on flag carriers. Is the State Department pursuing agreements for similar arrangements to evacuate U.S. citizens? If so, what are the obstacles to reaching those agreements? If not, why not?
“I understand that there are significant legal, personnel, and logistical challenges involved in extricating U.S. citizens during this time of global crisis. I strongly urge the State Department to take swift and decisive action to ensure all U.S. citizens that wish to return home to the U.S. are able do so immediately,” Sen Smith continued.
You can read Sen. Smith’s letter here.