— Domani Spero
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On July 21, the State Department updated its Travel Warning for Yemen urging Americans to defer travel to Yemen and for those living there to depart the country:
The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the high security threat level in Yemen due to terrorist activities and civil unrest. The Department urges U.S. citizens to defer travel to Yemen and those U.S. citizens currently living in Yemen to depart. This supersedes the Travel Warning for Yemen issued on January 29, 2014.
The U.S. Embassy in Sana’a remains a restricted staffing post. This limits the Embassy’s ability to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency and provide routine consular services. Embassy Officers are restricted in their movements and cannot travel outside of Sana’a. In addition, movements within Sana’a are severely constrained and may be further constrained by the fluid security situation.
The security threat level in Yemen is extremely high. The Embassy is subject to frequent unannounced closures. In May 2014, the Embassy was closed for almost five weeks because of heightened security threats.
Demonstrations continue to take place in various parts of the country and may quickly escalate and turn violent. U.S. citizens are urged to avoid areas of demonstrations, and to exercise extreme caution if within the vicinity of a demonstration.
Terrorist organizations, including Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), continue to be active throughout Yemen. The U.S. government remains highly concerned about possible attacks on U.S. citizens (whether visiting or residing in Yemen), and U.S. facilities, businesses, and perceived U.S. and Western interests.
Read the full release here.
The very next day, Yemeni Americans were on the news. US citizens in Yemen accused the American embassy of confiscating their passports. The State Department reportedly is withholding fraudulent passports, but rights groups say Yemeni Americans are being unfairly targeted.
Why is the US embassy in Sana’a, Yemen confiscating the passports of Yemeni Americans? http://t.co/zVw2AAqTgX
— GuardianUS (@GuardianUS) July 22, 2014
— Spencer Ackerman (@attackerman) July 24, 2014
Leaving the country without a regular passport would be difficult but perhaps not impossible.
Back in January, we blogged about this. (See US Embassy Yemen: Revocation of U.S. Passports, a Growing Trend? At that time,a State Department official who spoke on background told us that citizens with revoked passports “may be provided with a limited validity passport for a direct return to the United States.” That is, based on the circumstances of the case. Earlier, we’ve prodded that CA/Embassy Sana’a provide guidance on how to file an appeal in revocation cases on its website. To-date, there is nothing online in terms of guidance on appealing these cases.
Passport revocations are not the only thing that seem to be surging in Yemen.
Last month, Embassy Sana’a announced that U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Matthew H. Tueller, along with Embassy Sana’a Consular staff, hosted a “Super Saturday” event to register the births of children born in Yemen who are eligible for American citizenship. Consular staff volunteers reportedly assisted more than 120 Americans and Yemeni-American dual nationals residing in Yemen complete Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA) forms to document the U.S. citizenship of their children.
In 2010, the State Department estimated the number of U.S. citizens in Yemen at over 55,000. This past June, the US Embassy in Sana’a says that it serves more than 73,000 American citizens residing in Yemen. The embassy also expects to process 7,000 Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA) for this year alone. This at a high fraud post with limited staffing.
This is not the first time that the U.S. has told its nationals to leave Yemen. And so far, there has been no talk of an evacuation. The embassy is already on restricted staffing but should the embassy shutdown, the evacuation of Yemen’s American citizen population would be a logistical nightmare and could potentially dwarf the evacuation of nearly 15,000 American citizens from Lebanon in 2006.
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- Yemen: British nationals told to leave (theguardian.com)
- British embassy to close in Yemen (theguardian.com)
- Americans Ordered to Leave Yemen ‘Immediately’ Due to al-Qaida Terror Threat (washington.cbslocal.com)
- US Warns Americans in Yemen to Leave Now (abcnews.go.com)
- US Embassy Yemen: Consular Services Will Remain Closed Through May 22, 2014 (diplopundit.net)