Foreign Service Posts Around the World: Repatriation Flights (Photos)

According to the State Department, as of April 24, 2020, 3:00 p.m. EDT, it has coordinated the repatriation of 67,448 Americans on 716 flights from 124 countries and territories. Below are some photos from some foreign service posts who did repatriation flights in April (not an exhaustive list).
During the April 22 briefing, agency officials note that they’re “tracking something like 17,000 people who have expressed some degree of interest in maybe getting our help” but also said that the number in the thousands is “not all that meaningful” as  “there are others who have been registered by, for example, their children in the United States saying, “My aging parents are in country X,” Peru or wherever, “and they should be getting out of there,” and in fact those aging parents have no particular interest or desire to leave.”

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Foreign Service Posts Evacuation Tracker: Authorized and Ordered Departures, Post Closures (as of 4/15/20)

Updated/1:35 pm PDT

Authorized departure is an evacuation procedure, short of ordered departure, by which post employees and/or eligible family members are permitted to leave post in advance of normal rotation when U.S. national interests or imminent threat to life requires it. Authorized departure is voluntary, requested by the chief of mission (COM) and approved by the Under Secretary for Management (M). The incumbent to this office is Brian Bulatao.
Ordered departure is an evacuation procedure by which the number of U.S. government employees, eligible family members, or both, at a Foreign Service post is reduced. Ordered departure is mandatory and may be initiated by the chief of mission or the Secretary of State
Posts with very few exceptions, report to their regional or geographic bureaus headed respectively by an Assistant Secretary, a Senate confirmed position. Four of the seven regional bureaus at State are headed by officials in their acting capacity (EUR, SCA, WHA, IO).  
We’ve heard from one post in Africa where COM was apparently told by a senior State Department official that non-emergency personnel should leave with the authorized departure flight or be involuntarily curtailed from post.
Can you still  call a voluntary evacuation voluntary if non-emergency personnel are under threat of curtailments if they don’t go? Is this unique to this one post or is the arm twisting more widespread within AF posts or other bureaus.
Another post in Africa told us that its COM has raised the possibility of involuntary curtailment if folks don’t want to depart on AD but that this was COM’s idea not Washington’s. One source explained that  from a post perspective, you do not want to go on OD because  “you lose control.”  This is probably a limited perspective based on the circumstances of specific posts. Or is it?
What about from the mothership’s perspective? To OD post or not to OD? Why, or why not?
We were told that the “challenge” with “ordered departures” is that Washington is “involved in micromanaging” the termination of the OD but also with the staffing/movement of personnel. Every time post permits anyone to return to post for any reason, the mothership has to review it. Our source told us that the amount of time to review every tweak and revision of staffing would probably be considerable even if just half the posts worldwide are on OD.
We note that per 3 FAM 3774 “official travel to a post or country where an authorized or ordered departure is in effect is prohibited without the formal approval of the Under Secretary for Management (M) following approval of a post policy that clearly describes appropriate restrictions and limits exceptions, in accordance with the procedures described under Waivers of Travel Prohibitions (3 FAM 3776).” Excerpt:

b. In limited circumstances, M may delegate to the COM the authority to approve travel to and from a post under authorized departure (including travel related to rest and recuperation (R&R), home leave, annual leave, etc.) for permanently assigned employees, family members, and MOHs who do not elect authorized departure status.  M also may delegate to the COM, in limited circumstances, the authority to approve travel to post for employees who were away from post when ordered departure was approved.

c.  In situations in which the Under Secretary for Management (M) has not delegated authority to the COM, waiver requests will be forwarded to the regional bureau executive director for review and a recommendation for approval or denial.  If approved in principle by the regional bureau, the request will be forwarded to the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) for clearance and returned to the regional bureau executive director for submission to M.  To provide time for the review and approval/denial process, travelers must allow a minimum of 20 working days following submission of requests to the Department for all but the most urgent medical or casualty-related travel.  Given changing conditions in these locations, requests should not be submitted to the Department more than 35 days prior to the proposed departure date.

d. For posts where operations have been suspended or countries where the United States is engaged in contingency operations: Requests for a waiver of the prohibition on official and personal travel to a post or country where operations have been suspended or countries where the United States is engaged in contingency operations must be approved by the Under Secretary for Management, who may waive the prohibition in unusual or compelling circumstances.  The request must be made initially to the regional bureau executive director for review and a recommendation for approval or denial.  If approved in principle by the regional bureau, the request will be forwarded to the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) for clearance and returned to the regional bureau executive director for submission to M.  To provide time for the review and approval/denial process, travelers must allow a minimum of 20 working days following submission of requests to the Department for all but the most urgent medical or casualty-related travel.  Given changing conditions in these locations, requests should not be submitted to the Department more than 35 days prior to the proposed departure date.  Approvals for such travel can be revoked at any time by M and M can impose conditions on the traveler’s length of stay, whereabouts, and/or activities in country.  The traveler must explain in detail where he/she will reside during his/her stay; unless approved by the Under Secretary for Management, no employee, family member, or member of household may reside in State Department leased or owned facilities while operations are suspended.

Anyhow, if you have further thoughts on this, drop us a line. Below is a revised evacuation tracker, no additional AD/OD posts since March 28 but we’ve now added the two post closures, the Consulates General in Wuhan and Vladivostok. Note updated date of post closure for Wuhan.  We could not locate an announcement of post closure except as part of an update on the China Travel Advisory dated February 19, which may not be the actual date when USCG Wuhan was officially closed.
Also, please note that the term “non-essential” personnel has been generally replaced with the term “non-emergency” personnel. However, we still occasionally see this term used in official releases from overseas posts. Also as late as 2018, the Foreign Affairs Manual in its danger pay section still makes references to “non-essential” personnel.

Snapshot: @StateDept COVID-19 Cases as of April 14, 2020

Note that with the April 10 update, the State Department removed the “pending tests” category, so we no longer have a view on how many pending tests are there at our overseas posts.  DOS also replaced “positive cases” with “current cases.”  According to the State Department, a current case is “a person with a positive COVID-19 test or clinical diagnosis and not confirmed to have recovered.” 
Instead of a “self-isolating” category, State is now calling this category “Remain at home” or individuals  “advised to remain at home because of contact with a known COVID-19 case or or travel to a high-risk area.” 
On the domestic side, “persons remaining at home” are no longer tracked according to State after stay at home orders/telework instructions were broadly issued.

 

Updated: April 14, 2020, 3:00 p.m. EDT

Any diplomatic posts overseas having issues obtaining proper PPE?

 

Via Briefing With Dr. William Walters, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for Operations, and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Ian Brownlee, Bureau of Consular Affairs On COVID-19:  Updates on Health Impact and Assistance for American Citizens Abroad | APRIL 14, 2020

QUESTION:  Hey, thank you.  Have you heard from any of the diplomatic posts overseas that they are having issues obtaining proper PPE given kind of the global shortages, particularly those who are interacting with folks who are being repatriated? 

DR WALTERS:  Yeah, it’s Doc Walters.  So with regard to PPE overseas, our – as part of our ongoing preparedness well in advance of this pandemic, the Bureau of Medical Services has small stockpiles of PPE and other countermeasures at each post.  We have supplemented that, again, well in advance of the crush on the supply chain that’s occurred.  And so our health care providers overseas and our consular officers are provided with PPE appropriate to their interaction, understanding that there are going to be times when you come into unexpected contact with American citizens and no one’s going to stop what they’re doing in helping an American citizen.

But we – as part of the safety net, both there’s the PPE side, but there’s also the small community in each of our posts that is overseen by a medical provider from the bureau, either a direct hire or locally employed, and that – that drives the statistics that I provide at the beginning of each one of these briefs, and what we’re seeing is a fairly flat curve and no ongoing employee-to-employee transmission patterns that we’ve been able to identify.

 

COVID-19 Tracker: State Department and Foreign Service Posts (April 14 Update)

Our COVID-19 tracker has large gaps in it, but we don’t have a better alternative on breakdowns as the State Department is only releasing total numbers, not locations.  We have updated our tracker to include the two confirmed FSN deaths in Jakarta, Indonesia and Kinshasa, DRC, and one confirmed FSN death at an undeclared location. There are currently two domestic deaths, one in NYC, a contractor, and one in Washington, D.C. at an undeclared office location, a Civil Service employee.

DOS Briefing 4/14/20: The State Department continues to strongly enforce and practice the appropriate social distancing and other non-pharmaceutical interventions, and that continues to be reflected in our own disease curves.  Currently there are – we’re tracking 297 overseas cases, including 182 active with 115 recovered, holding at – thankfully holding at three overseas deaths, all within locally employed staff. Domestic cases are 71 current cases, 67 with four recovered.  Important to note that we started to see domestic cases in the second into the third week of March, and so this is the point at which we would expect to see those cases start to recover.  So I would anticipate over the next week, we’ll start to see the recovery cases start to climb. I am saddened to say that we’ve had our first – our second domestic death, our first within the U.S. direct-hire population, a civil servant serving here in Washington, D.C.  And our condolences do go out to the family and to all families that have been impacted by coronavirus.”

DOS Briefing 3/23/20 “I can tell you we’re still at single digits here in the United States with cases – one each, two each, three each in Washington; Houston; Boston; New York; Quantico, Virginia; and Seattle.  So the numbers themselves are – overseas are still double-digit.  We’re looking at less than 30 scattered over 220 posts around the world, and it remains a challenge.” 

Related posts

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snapshot: @StateDept COVID-19 Cases as of April 3, 2020

The State Department updated its COVID-19 cases on Friday, April 3. 2020. From March 31 to April 3, the number of employees and family members overseas who were self-isolating went from 2,288 to 3,528, an increase of 1,240. The number of positive cases decreased from 149 to 108; while those who recovered went from 42 on March 31 to 79 on April 3, a difference of 37 new individuals recovered.
The April 3 update now includes the number of deaths. As of April 3, there were three deaths overseas from COVID-19, all three are noted as Locally Employed (LE) staffers. We learned previously that one LE staffer died in Jakarta, and another in Kinshasa. We do not know as yet, the location of the third casualty. In the April 3 briefing, Dr. Walters declined to identify the country where the third death occurred. Why? We can’t say. Obviously, the next of kin already know about the death. Co-workers at post already know about the death. We’re not sure why they’re refusing the even identify post; reporters are not asking for names. If Walters is going to cite the Privacy Act, deceased individuals and country names do not have Privacy Act rights. If there’s a real rationale for this, we’d like to know.
The April 3 update still do not include information on the number of medical evacuations (MEDEVAC), USG patients or places of origin. We can confirm at least one MEDEVAC from Burkina Faso, and that USG patient is on the road to recovery.
For domestic cases, the number of self-isolating employees went from 44 to 50 in three days, with positive cases going from 33 to 46 cases.  The report indicates that two domestic employees have recovered as of April 3, 2020.
See excerpts from April 3 briefing below.

 

As of April 3, 2020

As of March 31, 2020

 

Dr. Walters on April 3 Briefing:

Now moving on to the latest COVID-19 statistics for the Department of State, as of today, April 3rd, there are 108 confirmed cases overseas. There are 46 confirmed cases domestically, occurring in nine different cities. So far, there are no reported deaths domestically, but unfortunately there are now a total of three deaths overseas amongst our workforce.

QUESTION: Hi, thanks. I just had a question about the number of State Department deaths and a testing question. The first is: Can you give us any more information about the employee, the third person who had died or what country that was in and any other information you can give us?

And second, does State currently have a standard policy on testing? Do – for example, people who think they may be – may have the virus but are not showing symptoms, are they able to get tested? What is the standard guidance on department employees getting tested? Thanks.

MR WALTERS: So as to the first question, I can tell you that it was a locally-employed staff member overseas. I don’t – can’t really go into any further detail because it becomes easier and easier to identify individual people when you do that, so I’m afraid I can’t.

With regard to testing, domestically we all exist within a broad public health architecture. From an occupational health perspective, we have a responsibility to protect the workforce, but we live within and work within the city of Washington, D.C., or in Virginia or Maryland, and ultimately testing and contact tracing is a local and state responsibility and authority. And so we cooperate very closely with the state and local and county public health teams to make sure that we keep the workforce safe and make sure testing is used appropriately.

QUESTION: Hi, there. Thanks. Sorry, I was – I missed part of the answer to Nick’s question because of Elmo, but – (laughter) – did you, Doc Walters, say that the third death was a locally employed staffer? And is it correct that there are still no American staffers overseas who have been —who have succumbed?

And then secondly, the – how many of the more than 400 flights that Ian is talking about were commercial flights that – for which the U.S. Government did not have to pay anything? Thank you.

MR WALTERS: Thanks, Matt. I can answer the first part and then I’ll hand over to Ian and DAS Yon for the last part.

Yeah, so locally employed staff member overseas – we are not aware of any chief of mission personnel overseas who have succumbed to the illness.

Folks, we hate to do this but this is a real pet peeve for us because. Very basic.  “We are not aware of any chief of mission personnel overseas who have succumbed to the illness?” The three Locally Employed (LE) staff members who died of COVID-19 are not chief of mission personnel? Good grief!
2 FAH-2 H-112.1 talks about Chief of Mission authority to direct, supervise, and coordinate all U.S. Government executive branch employees in the COM’s country or area of responsibility.  This includes U.S. Direct Hire (USDH) employees and Personal Service Contractors (PSCs), whether assigned permanently or on temporary duty or an official visit, and; all Locally Employed (LE) Staff regardless of hiring mechanism (whether a direct hire or hired on a PSA, PSC or other mechanism by the Department of State or another U.S. government agency – see 3 FAM 7121).

Snapshot: @StateDept COVID-19 Cases as of March 31, 2020 #newreportingsystem

 

On March 31, the State Department updated its running total of COVID-19 cases domestically and at overseas posts. The update also notes that it has a “new reporting systems for overseas posts” which apparently resulted in “additional detailed documentation of more cases on March 31.”
The updated numbers still do not include death data, and medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) data.
The day before, on March 30, State/MED’s Walters said during the briefing:

The department continues to sustain and protect our overseas workforce in over 200 locations around the world.  With a large employee footprint, nearly 75,000 employees, our current caseload overseas is only 75 cases – five hospitalized, all locally employedDomestically we have 30 cases in nine cities.  Most cities are single case or two cases.  We do not have a documented case of employee-to-employee transmission.  We’re watching very closely to that.  We’ve been very aggressive in identifying cases early, decontaminating or disinfecting any impacted spaces and getting those spaces back into operation to support State Department functions on behalf of the American people. 

When asked about “deaths among the State Department staff due to coronavirus”,  Dr. Walters responded:

So the department is aware of two locally employed staff – I don’t have locations and wouldn’t be able to provide further details – that have died overseas in their own country related to coronavirus.  I don’t have any further details that I can pass on.  There have been no deaths domestically or with any U.S. direct hires.  

We have noted elsewhere that the two deaths reference here occurred in Jakarta and Kinshasa. See Pompeo Reads the Data Set Every Morning But Can’t Get @StateDept COVID-19 Casualty Details Right.
As to the “30 cases in nine cities”, we have only counted six cities to-date, so we’re missing three cities at this time.
March 31, 2020 Update

 

March 27, 2020 Update

As of March 27, 2020

Related posts:

US Embassy Chad: Where You Can Manifest But You Can Never Leave #StuckInChad

 

Remember in 2017 when Trump announced new security measures that establish minimum requirements for international cooperation to support U.S. visa and immigration vetting and new visa restrictions for eight countries? One of those eight countries was Chad.  BuzzFeed reported at that time: ” Experts from the State Department to humanitarian organizations were stunned when the Chad was added to the travel ban in late September. The country is home to a US military facility and just hosted an annual 20-nation military exercise with the US military’s Africa Command to strengthen local forces to fight extremist insurgents. Chad’s capital, N’Djamena, is the headquarters of the five-country Multinational Joint Task Force battling Boko Haram.”
In response to travel ban, Chad withdrew hundreds of troops from neighboring Niger, where up to 2,000 of its soldiers were part of a coalition battling Boko Haram. See Avoidable Mess: U.S. to Help Chad After “Important Partner” Withdraws Troops From Niger Following Visa Sanctions.
At that time, we also wrote that “the USG’s action telegraphed careless disregard of the relationship, and Chad most likely, will not forget this easily. “Remember that time when the U.S. put Chad on the visa sanctions list while we have 2,000 soldiers fighting in Niger?” Yep, they’ll remember.”
Maybe this is just coincidence, but here we are:
On March 26, 2020, the US Embassy in Ndjamena, Chad announced  that  the U.S. Embassy “received information on a possible flight that could leave as early as tomorrow” and that “the flight will be making other stops in Africa before going to Washington, DC.”
On March 27, Embassy Ndjamena announced  that “There will not be a flight leaving Chad tomorrow, Friday March 27.  We have no further information on when a flight will be available, but efforts continue.”
Later on March 27, Embassy Ndjamena announced that the U.S. Embassy “was informed that there will be a flight on Sunday for U.S. citizens to depart Chad. The Embassy has also been informed that there will be a very limited number of seats available, with limited luggage, and no pets.  We have no information about any other future flights.”
Update #4 on March 27 notes that “The U.S. Embassy manifested a limited number of passengers for the flight on Sunday. Unfortunately, if you did not receive an email stating that you had been manifested, there were not enough seats to allocate one for you.”
By March 27, that flight was off again, and the embassy announced that “The U.S. Embassy regrets to inform U.S. citizens that  Sunday’s flight has been cancelled because the Chad MFA denied the request for flight clearance.”
On March 29, Embassy Ndjamena said “There are no updates to report on flights to depart Chad.”
On March 30,  the announcement said, “There are no updates to report on flights to depart Chad.”
On March 30, update #6 said, “There are no updates to report on flights to depart Chad, although efforts continue.”
On March 31, the statement remains “There are no updates to report on flights to depart Chad, although efforts continue.”
On March 31, update #7 said: There are now 7 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Chad. There are no updates to report on flights to depart Chad, although efforts continue.”
As of this writing, the latest update posted online is dated  March 31, 2020, 11:00 WAT: ” There are now 7 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Chad. There are no updates to report on flights to depart Chad, although efforts continue.
Chad is a Level 3 Reconsider Travel country since October 2019 “due to crimeterrorism, and minefields.” The advisory also notes that “The U.S. Government has extremely limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Chad as U.S. Government employees must obtain special authorization to travel outside of the capital, including the Lake Chad Basin.”
Below via Diplomatic Security’s 2020 Safety and Security Report for Chad:
  • The U.S. Department of State has assessed N’Djaména as being a HIGH-threat location for terrorism directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. The potential exists for terrorist activity throughout Chad. Violent extremist organizations (e.g. Boko Haram, ISIS-West Africa, ISIS-Libya, and al-Qa’ida-affiliated groups) can easily cross borders and target Westerners, local security forces, and civilians in the Lake Chad Basin and the Sahel.
  • The U.S. Department of State has assessed N’Djaména as being a HIGH-threat location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. Chad’s recent history is one of political tensions, rebellions, and coup attempts. The current Chadian government has a strong executive branch, headed by President Idriss Déby Itno and dominated by his Zaghawa ethnic group, which controls the political landscape.
  • Border security remains elevated. Chad’s borders with Libya and Sudan are generally off-limits without specific permission from the Government of Chad. The Chad-Libya border is an active conflict zone. New mines may have been laid in secondary roads in 2019, and unexploded ordnance (UXO) remains from the Chad-Libya conflict.
  • Medical care is limited within N’Djaména, and difficult to find outside of major cities. Chad has limited and extremely expensive public ambulance services. In case of emergency, consider transporting the patient with private vehicles.
  • The Chadian government and people are generally friendly towards U.S. citizens, but violent extremist groups in the Lake Chad region and the Sahel have expressed or signaled their intention to target Westerners.
As far as we are aware, US Embassy Ndjamena is not on any type of evacuation status (with the exception of the Global Authorized Departure issued on March 14). But even if it were to go on ordered departure now, the flights are not going anywhere.

Related items:
Related posts:

 

FCO Deputy Ambassador Steven Dick, 37, Dies of COVID-19 in Hungary

 

 

Evacuation Tracker: U.S. Foreign Service Posts (Updated March 24, 2020)

SSDO Special Briefing, March 24, 2020

“In an unprecedented move, the department has authorized departure from post for all employees abroad who are considered to be especially medically vulnerable to the consequences of COVID-19.  To date, we’ve also granted ordered departure and authorized voluntary departure to 17 posts and will continue to assess the need to grant more as time progresses. “

QUESTION:  [… ] And then secondly, I’m sure you’ve seen these reports that there are numerous embassies, or at least several embassies, where people are basically clamoring for order departure status, and that they are being discouraged from that.  Can you address that?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL:  Oh, no.  All help is appreciated.  On the second part of your question, Matt, so our embassies overseas have their emergency teams meet regularly to discuss the situation at post, and they have a process and procedure in place where they can really evaluate the transportation system, the healthcare system, and not just the status of COVID in the country.  And when they reach a certain point where they feel like, okay, maybe time to request authorized ordered departure, they submit a request to the undersecretary of management, and those are coming in regularly, and the undersecretary reviews them and then makes decisions on what to approve.  At this point, I think one of the biggest issues is the travel restrictions that countries are instituting around the world.

MODERATOR ONE:  If I could just add on to that, those decisions are made against a robust set of criteria and decisions made based to – based on a consistent set of principles, all which are geared towards maximizing the safety for our employees.

Senior State Department Official Special Briefing, March 23, 2020

QUESTION:  And do you have numbers on authorized departures and ordered departures?  How many people have taken you up on it so far?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE:  We’ll have to take that question and get back to you.  I don’t have those numbers at my fingertips.  I apologize.

Related post:
March 23, 2020: U.S. Foreign Service Posts: Tracking Voluntary Departures and Mandatory Evacuations