Thousands of Americans still stuck in Yemen because of coronavirus border closures

Advocates are becoming increasingly worried about an estimated 2,000 Americans and permanent residents with green cards who remain stuck in Yemen because of border closures brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Yemenis are not part of a repatriation program that is helping 100,000 Americans stuck overseas get back to their homes. Additionally, Yemen has been in the middle of a civil war for five years with deteriorating conditions there.

Two flights brought back about 300 citizens on June 28 and July 1, but the ticket price of $1,500 had to be paid up front for the service. Other repatriation efforts have allowed people to pay upon their return or apply for financial assistance.

“Every single American deserves to have their government protect them when they are in harm’s way in a foreign country and to be repatriated under a public health emergency that has really impacted the entire world,” litigation director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Ahmed Mohamed said.

Dire situations

Miriam Alghazali and her four children are still in Yemen after a trip to visit family stranded them there in March, The Hill reported. Her fourth child was born there after she was not able to come back, and the family is relying on friendly neighbors for food and support in a place where the UN says four out of five people need life-saving interventions.

Alghazali’s mother Izdehar Alghazali has been trying to help her daughter get home, but understands that the situation is dire. The family is in Sana’a, the capital, which is controlled by Iran-backed Houthis who don’t place much value on women and children.

The elder Alghazali is worried that her daughter or one of her grandchildren will get sick or need medical attention, which is in short supply in Yemen under the current conditions.

The State Department told her to register the family with the STEP program, which gives email updates and advisories, and standby. But the lack of a U.S. embassy in Yemen, which shut down at the beginning of the civil war in 2015, has hampered communication and action to get people back home.

Still trying

“Despite border and airport closures, we continue to assess potential repatriation options for all U.S. citizens stranded in the region,” a State Department spokesperson told The Hill.

Those with the greatest medical needs are prioritized to come home first, the spokesperson said, and agency guidance and from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also followed.

With the U.S. in a situation of newly rising cases and some services shutting down again or limiting use, it is not clear how long the Yemenis might keep their border closed.

It would be great to get these last Americans out of Yemen before the situation gets any worse there.

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