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Via State/OIG – AUD-MERO-21-16/March 2021:
(U) In the event of a natural disaster, political instability, or other security threats, the Department of State (Department) may decide to evacuate an embassy and establish operations in a separate location known as a “remote mission,” often in another country, for an indefinite period of time. Remote missions include the Yemen Affairs Unit (YAU), which is operating remotely from the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; the Venezuela Affairs Unit (VAU), which is operating remotely from the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, Colombia; and Embassy Mogadishu, Somalia, which began operating remotely from the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, but now mostly operates from the Mogadishu International Airport in Somalia.
To ensure the safety of mission personnel during natural disasters, political instability, or other security threats, the Department may evacuate an embassy or consulate and establish operations in a separate location. Often the new location is in another country, where missionessential functions continue, and the embassy effectively operates as a “remote mission.” Missions that have operated remotely include the Yemen Affairs Unit, the Venezuela Affairs Unit, and Embassy Mogadishu.1
(U) Yemen Affairs Unit (Remote Mission Site: U.S. Embassy Riyadh, Saudi Arabia) – In February 2015, the Department suspended operations at the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a, Yemen, due to deteriorating security conditions resulting from the Houthis’ takeover of the government.2 One month later, the Department established the YAU remote mission at the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, under the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.3 On October 24, 2018, the YAU relocated from Jeddah to the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
(U) Venezuela Affairs Unit (Remote Mission Site: U.S. Embassy Bogota, Colombia) – In March 2019, the Department suspended operations at the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela, due to security concerns and the deteriorating political situation in the country. On August 5, 2019, the Department established the VAU remote mission atthe U.S. Embassy in Bogota, Colombia, under the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.
(U) U.S. Embassy Mogadishu, Somalia (Remote Mission Site: U.S. Embassy Nairobi, Kenya) – On September 8, 2015, after years of turmoil following the collapse of Somalia’s central government in 1991, the Department formally established the U.S. Mission to Somalia, based at Embassy Nairobi, Kenya. In December 2018, the Department designated a facility at the Mogadishu International Airport as a U.S. diplomatic facility under the Bureau of African Affairs, though some support staff continue to be based at Embassy Nairobi.
(U) Personnel at embassies and consulates usually include a combination of direct hires— that is, U.S. citizens who are Civil Service or Foreign Service employees—and LE staff. LE staff are typically citizens of the host country and are employed under the authority of the Chief of Mission. Following an evacuation or suspension of operations, LE staff may remain in the host country and continue to work, depending on the mission’s needs.4 For example, since 2015, LE staff based in Yemen have worked to support the YAU now located at U.S Embassy Riyadh. Similarly, since 2019, LE staff based in Venezuela have worked to support the VAU located at U.S. Embassy Bogota. Moreover, in some instances, after an embassy’s closure, LE staff may perform their duties while working remotely or teleworking from their homes in the host country. For both the YAU and VAU, some of the LE staff have been either working remotely or teleworking from their homes due to the closure of the U.S. embassies in both Yemen and Venezuela.