U.S. Ambassador John Sullivan (center front) poses with the U.S. Embassy Moscow team

COVID-19 Repatriation: Bringing Americans Home from Europe and Eurasia

Our nation’s diplomats are serving on the front lines of the global COVID-19 pandemic as international first responders, as they have for 200 years. Their priority is to protect American citizens abroad during crises and bring them home or repatriate them if needed. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo initiated the social media hashtag #AmericansHome to signal his support for these heroic behind-the-scenes efforts. As of June 1, 2020, the State Department has repatriated more than 98,000 American citizens during the pandemic.

Spotlight on Repatriation: Europe

Person in yellow vest gives a thumbs up in front of a plane

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 piggyback 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

Photos from COVID-19 Repatriation Efforts for the Europe and Eurasia Region