Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Julie Chung poses with members of the interagency team in Lima, Peru. Photo courtesy of U.S. Embassy Lima, Peru

Western Hemisphere Region: All Hands on Deck

American passengers receive instructions from U.S. Embassy staff as they travel to the airport for their repatriation flights from Lima, Peru.

American passengers receive instructions from U.S. Embassy staff as they travel to the airport for their repatriation flights from Lima, Peru. Photo courtesy of U.S. Embassy Lima, Peru

In early April, the U.S. Embassy in Trinidad and Tobago helped repatriate American citizens on a charter flight to the United States with support from the Piarco International Airport staff.

In early April, the U.S. Embassy in Trinidad and Tobago helped repatriate American citizens on a charter flight to the United States with support from the Piarco International Airport staff. Photo courtesy of U.S. Embassy Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago

U.S. Embassy Santiago staff worked around the clock to get Americans home from Chile. Photo courtesy of U.S. Embassy Santiago, Chile

U.S. Embassy Santiago staff worked around the clock to get Americans home from Chile. Photo courtesy of U.S. Embassy Santiago, Chile

The U.S. Consulate General Curacao brought 61 Americans home from Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao. Coordinating flights among the islands was a logistical challenge. Photo courtesy of U.S. Consulate General Curaçao

The U.S. Consulate General Curaçao brought 61 Americans home from Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao. Coordinating flights among the islands was a logistical challenge. Photo courtesy of U.S. Consulate General Curaçao

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U.S. citizens depart a cruise ship in Montevideo, Uruguay on March 24 in order to board evacuation flights.

U.S. citizens depart a cruise ship in Montevideo, Uruguay on March 24 in order to board evacuation flights. Photo courtesy of U.S. Embassy Montevideo, Uruguay

Outside La Aurora International Airport, American citizens gather to leave Guatemala City. During the COVID-19 crisis, the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala helped more than 3,400 U.S. citizens and residents return to the United States.

Outside La Aurora International Airport, American citizens gather to leave Guatemala City. During the COVID-19 crisis, the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala helped more than 3,400 U.S. citizens and residents return to the United States.

U.S. citizens before their evacuation flight out of Trinidad and Tobago. Photo courtesy of U.S. Embassy Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago

U.S. citizens before their evacuation flight out of Trinidad and Tobago. Photo courtesy of U.S. Embassy Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago

 

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Julie Chung speaks with U.S. citizens returning to the United States at an airport hangar in Lima, Peru.

Spotlight on Repatriation: Peru

When Peru’s commercial airport closed to all travel on March 23, the U.S. Embassy in Lima swung into action, engaging with the Peruvuan Government to repatriate more than 7,000 American citizens from across the country amidst closed borders and strict Peruvian quarantine and curfew measures.  The embassy utilized buses, small aircraft, and other modes of transportation to bring people in from remote provinces, including the mountainous Cusco region and parts of the Amazon only accessible by boat.

Using a whole-of-government and whole-of-embassy approach, embassy staff from multiple agencies, including the Department of Defense and the Drug Enforcement Agency, utilized an airplane hangar managed by the State Department’s International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Bureau to process thousands of American citizens.  A six-person “flyaway team” from the Bureau of Consular Affairs provided additional support by developing flight manifests, issuing passports, and processing thousands of promissory notes.

Post utilized a “radical transparency” approach to public messaging that better informed U.S. citizens in Peru and the public generally through their website, local media, email, and social media.  State Department Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Julie Chung traveled to the country to boost Embassy Lima’s efforts through highly visible personal outreach to government officials and American citizens.  State Department staff in Washington, at the Embassy, and at other posts around the world, including China and Brazil, answered real-time inquiries by email and phone.  This interagency call center worked to confirm citizens were ready to fly, providing the human contact essential to reassure individuals who had expressed their fears of being “left behind.”