U.S. Ambassador John Sullivan (center front) poses with the U.S. Embassy Moscow team who spent the night at Sheremetyevo Airport helping to evacuate over 100 Americans from Russia. Photo courtesy of U.S. Embassy Moscow, Russia
Europe and Eurasia Region: Getting Home
U.S. Consular Officer Brian Corteville monitored airline websites to verify available flights for U.S. citizens. Photo courtesy of U.S. Consulate General Milan, Italy
A mother and son await their April 17 repatriation flight out of Yerevan, Armenia. Photo courtesy of U.S. Embassy Yerevan, Armenia
U.S. Embassy Podgorica coordinated with U.S. Embassy Sarajevo, the governments of Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Germany to organize flights to return 53 U.S. citizens and Legal Permanent Residents home from Montenegro. Photo courtesy of U.S. Embassy Podgorica, Montenegro
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Staff of U.S. Embassy Podgorica gather outside the airport to assist in the return of U.S. citizens home from Montenegro. Photo courtesy of U.S. Embassy Podgorica, Montenegro
A U.S. citizen who recovered from COVID-19 takes a moment to express his gratitude to U.S. Embassy Lisbon and local health officials. Photo courtesy of U.S. Embassy Lisbon, Portugal
Consular Assistant Secretary Risch coordinated teams around the world in getting more than 80,000 #AmericansHome since COVID-19 began. Photo courtesy of U.S. Embassy Lisbon, Portugal
Spotlight on Repatriation: Europe
When European countries closed their borders to stop the spread of COVID-19, few airports remained open or maintained regular flights to the United States. Many Americans were able to get to these hubs and take commercial flights back home, but some pockets of Americans were trapped in landlocked countries that had already closed their borders. As Hugo Yon, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Transportation Affairs in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, noted, “There were 100,000 people stranded in over 100 countries almost overnight. We saw very quickly that we were going to be overwhelmed.” State Department staff had to employ their diplomatic skills and training to find a new model to deploy commercial rescue flights to multiple destinations. They worked with local authorities to find bus routes to major airport hubs in other countries or negotiated for U.S. citizens to piggy-back on flights previously arranged for other international citizens.
Back in the United States, State Department officials worked with their European counterparts and other federal agencies, such as the FAA, to keep major European flight hubs open so that U.S. citizens could make their way back home, as the United States had kept its airports open for their citizens still making their way out of the United States.
We’re either going to get this right, or we’re going to lose an entire generation of Americans in terms of what the State Department does for them. And we got it right.”
— Hugo Yon, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Transportation Affairs in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs