US Embassy Lebanon Now on Ordered Departure

On March 19, the US Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon announced that it is now on “ordered departure” status and that the embassy will now be reduced to emergency staffing levels:

On March 18, 2020, the Department of State authorized the U.S. Embassy in Beirut to go on “ordered departure” status, which means the Embassy will be reducing personnel to emergency staffing levels.  The decision was based on a variety of factors, including the cessation of commercial transportation options out of the country, the increasing incidence of COVID-19, and associated burdens on a severely strained local healthcare system.

All routine consular operations remain suspended.  During this time, the Consular Section will be able to provide only limited emergency services to U.S. citizens on a case-by-case basis.  U.S. citizens with verifiable emergencies may contact BeirutACS@state.gov.  Additional information regarding availability of consular services and the status of the Embassy can be found on our website.

US Embassy Beirut remains a Level 3 Reconsider Travel country; the advisory was issued on October 21, 2019 due to crime, terrorism, armed conflict and civil unrest.
Related post:

Also in Lebanon:

 

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New Travel Advisories and Voluntary/Mandatory Departures: Micronesia (L3), Tajikistan (L3), Mongolia (L4)

 

On March 18, the State Department issued new Level 3 Reconsider Travel Advisories for Micronesia and Tajikistan, and a Level 4 Travel Advisory for Mongolia. It also announced the voluntary departure order for two posts for non-emergency staffers and family members and a mandatory departure order for one post for  all non-essential personnel. Voluntary or “authorized departure” means employees and family members have the option to remain at post. An “ordered departure” is a mandatory order to leave post (see more below).
On March 11, 2020, the Department of State allowed for the voluntary departure of non-emergency U.S. Government employees and all eligible family members from US Embassy Kolonia, in Micronesia “due to stringent travel restrictions that affect commercial flights.”
On March 12, the Department ordered the departure of all nonessential personnel from U.S. Embassy Ulaanbaatar  “due to travel, transport, and other restrictions related to Mongolia’s response to the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19.”
On March 13, 2020, the State Department allowed for the voluntary departure of non-emergency personnel and family members of U.S. government employees from US Embassy Dushanbe due to “declining commercial flight availability and travel screening procedures implemented by the Government of Tajikistan.”
Micronesia Travel Advisory – Level 3 Reconsider Travel (March 18, 2020)

Reconsider Travel to the Federated States of Micronesia due to the Global Health Advisory and Embassy Kolonia’s limited capacity to provide support to U.S. citizens.

On March 11, 2020, the Department of State allowed for the voluntary departure of non-emergency U.S. Government employees and all eligible family members due to stringent travel restrictions that affect commercial flights.

As of March 18, 2020, there are no confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), but the country’s health system has limited capacity for handling an outbreak.  A recent reduction in commercial flights and difficulty in arranging medevac flights may make it difficult or impossible to seek medical evacuation.  Travelers should consider these factors and their health before traveling to the FSM and follow the Centers for Disease Control’s guidelines for the prevention of coronavirus if they decide to travel.

Mongolia Travel Advisory: Level 4: Do Not Travel (March 18, 2020)

Do Not Travel to Mongolia due to the Global Health Advisory and Mongolia’s suspension of all international travel in response to the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19 in neighboring countries.

On March 10, 2020, Mongolia suspended travel to and from foreign locations until at least March 28. Virtually all commercial flights, passenger rail, and auto traffic into and out of Mongolia are suspended during this time period. Domestic air and rail travel will also be suspended from March 10 until at least March 16. For the most up-to-date information regarding COVID-19-related issues affecting travelers in Mongolia please see the U.S Embassy in Mongolia’s COVID-19 Information page.

On February 25, 2020, the Department of State allowed for the voluntary departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees and all family members. On March 12, the Department ordered the departure of all nonessential personnel due to travel, transport, and other restrictions related to Mongolia’s response to the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19.

Tajikistan Travel Advisory – Level 3: Reconsider Travel (March 18, 2020)

Reconsider travel to Tajikistan due to the Global Health Advisory and measures implemented by the Government of Tajikistan in response to COVID-19.

On March 13, 2020, the State Department allowed for the voluntary departure of non-emergency personnel and family members of U.S. government employees due to declining commercial flight availability and travel screening procedures implemented by the Government of Tajikistan.

Travelers should be prepared for travel restrictions to be put into effect with little or no advance notice. Visit the U.S. Embassy Dushanbe website for additional information on these new measures.

Medical protocols in Tajikistan are not consistent with U.S. standards.  Consider declining any medical testing unrelated to COVID-19.

Due to the possibility of quarantine of unknown length, carry additional supplies of necessary medication in carry-on luggage.  Contact the U.S. Embassy if you are subject to quarantine or prior to undergoing any invasive medical testing or procedures.

Meanwhile we got a question in our inbox about Lebanon (a Level 3 Reconsider Travel country per Lebanon Travel Advisory issued on October 21, 2019):
“Beirut airport just closed and that means no way out due to geography.  Why are they not on OD? Who is in charge at State?”
Per 3 FAM 3770, “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. Departure is requested by the chief of mission (COM) and approved by the Under Secretary for Management (M).
An “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.

@StateDept Issues Travel Advisory Following Massive #LebanonProtests

 

 

On October 21, the State Department issued a  Travel Advisory for Lebanon. The advisory is a Level 3 Reconsider Travel due to to crime, terrorism, armed conflict and civil unrest. Excerpt:

U.S. citizens who choose to travel to Lebanon should be aware that consular officers from the U.S. Embassy are not always able to travel to assist them. The Department of State considers the threat to U.S. government personnel in Beirut sufficiently serious to require them to live and work under strict security restrictions. The internal security policies of the U.S. Embassy may be adjusted at any time and without advance notice.
[…]
The Lebanese government cannot guarantee the protection of U.S. citizens against sudden outbreaks of violence. Family, neighborhood, or sectarian disputes can escalate quickly and can lead to gunfire or other violence with no warning. Armed clashes have occurred along the Lebanese borders, in Beirut, and in refugee settlements. The Lebanese Armed Forces have been brought in to quell the violence in these situations.

 

US Embassy Beirut Hosts #USSRamage on “One-Day Goodwill Visit,” First Ship Visit to Lebanon in Over 30 Years

 

New U.S. Embassy Beirut to Open in Lebanon in 2022

Posted: 1:38 am ET
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On April 20, 2017, the U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard broke ground on the new U.S. Embassy compound in Beirut, Lebanon.

The multi-building compound will be located in the suburb of Awkar on a 43-acre site. The compound will provide a safe, secure, sustainable, and modern platform that supports U.S. Embassy staff in representing the U.S. Government to Lebanon and in conducting day-to-day diplomacy.

Professionals from the United States, Lebanon, and other countries will work side-by-side to complete this new diplomatic facility. Morphosis Architects of Culver City, California, is the architect for the project. B.L. Harbert International of Birmingham, Alabama is the construction contractor.

The construction contract was awarded in December 2016, and completion of the project is anticipated in 2022.

The multi-building complex project with a total budget of $1,026,043,688 will be constructed on a 43.87-acre site in the Awkar suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, located approximately 9 miles northwest of downtown Beirut and in close proximity to the existing Embassy Compound.

The project will reportedly include a Chancery; Marine security guard residence; support annex and buildings; representational, staff and temporary housing; facilities for the community; and parking.  Extending from the Chancery, ribbon-like residential buildings are designed to frame the campus’ central service and circulation corridor.

According to State/OBO, this compound is OBO’s first project designed to earn LEED for Neighborhood Development certification.  The design will reportedly achieve significant water use reduction both inside and outside the Chancery with over 75% of wastewater to be reused on-site for irrigation to reduce the utility costs, stress on the local infrastructure, and to improve overall resiliency of the site.

An estimated workforce of 2,000 American, Lebanese, and third-country workers are expected to be involved in the construction of the new Embassy.

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Community Liaison Officers: The Glue That Helps Keep Embassy Communities Together

Posted: 1:14 am ET
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The M. Juanita Guess Award is conferred by AFSA on a Community Liaison Officer who has demonstrated outstanding leadership, dedication, initiative or imagination in assisting the families of Americans serving at an overseas post.  Since 1995, Clements Worldwide has sponsored the M. Juanita Guess Award (named after Clements’ co-founder).

In 2016,  the award went to Sara Locke of U.S. Embassy Beirut, Lebanon with Berna Keen of U.S. Embassy Dhaka, Bangladesh as runner-up. Below via afsa.org:

Sara Locke | U.S. Embassy Beirut – 2016 M. Juanita Guess Award for Exemplary Performance by a Community Liaison Officer

Sara E. Locke is the recipient of this year’s M. Juanita Guess Award for Exemplary Performance by a Community Liaison Officer for her outstanding leadership, dedication, initiative and imagination in assisting the employees and family members of U.S. Embassy Beirut.

Embassy Beirut enthusiastically nominated Ms. Locke, stating: “There is probably no other person in the mission who receives as much unanimous, universal praise as Sara for her efforts in turning around the rapidly deteriorating morale at Embassy Beirut.” Working with members throughout the community, her leadership has dramatically improved morale through innovative programs and activities, re-establishing U.S. Embassy Beirut as a post actively sought by Foreign Service bidders. Her tireless efforts on behalf of employees and family members are absolutely impressive.

When Ms. Locke arrived at post in 2014, morale among embassy staff was plummeting and curtailments were increasing at an alarming rate. She recommended to the ambassador that post conduct a morale survey, and then coordinated closely with him and the regional psychiatrist (RMO/P) to figure out how the downward spiral could be reversed. She not only designed and conducted the first survey, but after a very insightful analysis, which she presented to the ambassador and deputy chief of mission, Ms. Locke created an “Action Committee” to respond to the complaints and suggestions.

As a result, many policies and practices on the compound were changed, and new innovative ideas were brought forward and implemented. Thanks to Ms. Locke’s efforts, the situation has improved so much that employees are now requesting extensions to their assignments, and positive responses to a recent morale survey are at an all-time high. The fact that community members now feel they are being heard has had a profoundly beneficial impact on life on a small compound at a high-threat post with very restrictive security requirements.

Ms. Locke has continued doing surveys every six months to measure changes and to solicit ideas on how to continue improving morale, but her influence extends beyond Beirut. Former U.S. Ambassador to Beirut David Hale (who had been in Beirut when Ms. Locke created the survey) wrote to Ms. Locke from his new post: “I owe you such a debt of gratitude and would appreciate any advice on how to maximize this product here,” he said, requesting that she share her thoughts and recommendations with his deputy chief of mission and management section.

Beirut is a challenging place in the best of circumstances: terrorist threats are real, security restrictions limit off-compound movements and permanent employees live and work in cramped, dilapidated facilities. The role of the CLO as an advocate for community members is absolutely critical, and Sara truly embraces it. She lobbies hard on behalf of family members to find rewarding jobs in the mission. She includes spouses in all aspects of embassy life, from social events to emergency preparations. She recently hosted a series of seminars on evacuation planning and community resources for the mission. She is the person many individuals turn to for support and guidance.

Just one example: immediately after a suicide bombing in downtown Beirut in November 2015, just a few miles from the embassy compound, Ms. Locke reached out to the embassy community to ensure accountability and reassure colleagues. When things quieted down, she developed a variety of innovative programs, trips and activities to allow employees to experience Beirut, always working closely with the embassy’s regional security section to stay within the constraints of strict security parameters. She helped increase the number of trips off compound to grocery stores, and then helped put in place a very popular weekend shopping shuttle. This change alone significantly improved morale and gave embassy employees a whole new perspective on life here; previously, only one trip off the compound per week was permitted.

Ms. Locke is extremely creative, constantly seeking out new entertainment venues and cultural events (concerts, museums, restaurants, wine tastings, food festivals), always coordinating well in advance with the regional security officer. She put together a long list of embassy recreational events, including scuba diving, hiking, skiing and snowshoeing. She also organizes a multitude of events for embassy families on the compound. She is an invaluable resource to everyone in the mission.

Berna Keen | U.S. Embassy Dhaka – 2016 M. Juanita Guess Award for Exemplary Performance by a Community Liaison Officer Runner-Up

Berna Keen, runner-up for this year’s M. Juanita Guess Award for Exemplary Performance by a Community Liaison Officer, is recognized as an exemplary CLO by her colleagues at U.S. Embassy Dhaka during what has been a turbulent period of terrorism and violence in Bangladesh. Her conscientious and compassionate approach to each and every member of the mission, the creativity she employs in bringing people together and her exceptional talent for organization has substantially increased morale at post.

A rash of “hartals,” violent political demonstrations, in 2015 crippled embassy operations in Dhaka. Ms. Keen experienced this violence firsthand when a vehicle she was riding in was hit with an explosive device. Incredibly, this only strengthened her commitment to her work. She communicated with everyone in the mission on shelter-in-place days, sending out ideas for activities to do with kids stuck indoors. She became a key voice on the Emergency Action Committee and created an EFM email list, subsequently added to the Global Address List, ensuring that security messages were received by everyone in the mission simultaneously.

With all of Dhaka on edge after a series of murders committed by Al-Qaida-allied fanatics and members of the so-called Islamic State group, embassy personnel were restricted to a two-square-mile area, could not walk outside and had a 10 o’clock curfew. School buses ridden by embassy children were accompanied by an armed police escort. Outside entertainment was off-limits to embassy personnel. In this tense environment, Ms. Keen brought the embassy community together, planning a staggering number of events—nearly 90 in 150 days—despite the fact that her office was understaffed.

Ranging from wine and cheese parties to pet playdates, she successfully provided people with an outlet for normal social activity. She brought the local market to the embassy, snagging pearl vendors, antique dealers and rug and clothing sellers to sell to the embassy community. Her continual reminders to the EAC on the importance of communication has kept the community well-informed and engaged during this trying time.

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US Embassy Beirut: A Form Letter Response, Please, That’s Cold

Posted: 2:50 am EDT
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The US Embassy in Damascus, Syria suspended its operations on February 6, 2012, and is not open for normal consular services.  The Travel Warning for Syria was last updated on August 27, 2015. Yes, these folks should have left Syria when it was still a possibility, but they probably knew that already, and blaming them now is not going to help. For folks interested in learning what the U.S. Government can and cannot do in a crisis overseas, please click here.

Look, we understand that there is not much that the USG can do in terms of consular services in an active war zone.  But. While it may not be much, forwarding the inquiry in this case to the U.S. Interests Section of the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Damascus might have, at a minimum, alerted the Section of this family’s existence.  Two, when one is in a life and death situation, receiving a form letter from the U.S. government is probably one of the coldest manifestation of the bureaucracy.

The Government of the Czech Republic serves as the protecting power for U.S. interests in Syria. U.S. citizens in Syria who seek consular services should contact the U.S. Interests Section of the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Damascus at USIS_damascus@embassy.mzv.cz. U.S. citizens in Syria who are in need of emergency assistance in Syria and are unable to reach the U.S. Interests Section of the Embassy of the Czech Republic or must make contact outside business hours, should contact the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jordan: AmmanACS@state.gov; +(962) (6) 590-6500.

 

Related items:

 

 

 

U.S. Embassy Malta: Ambassador Abercrombie-Winstanley Does Not Want Your Money (Fraud Alert)

Posted: 12:19 am EDT
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On April 9, we blogged about the U.S. Embassy in Beirut issuing a fraud alert on scammers impersonating Ambassador David Hale and the American Embassy in Lebanon (see  U.S. Embassy Beirut: Ambassador Hale Does Not Want Your Money (Fraud Alert). On April 22, the U.S. Embassy in Valletta, Malta issued a similar alert to the Maltese public on scammers impersonating Ambassador Abercrombie-Winstanley.

 

Internet scam artists have tried to impersonate U.S. Ambassador Abercrombie-Winstanley and the U.S. Embassy in an attempt to get Maltese people to send them money. Don’t believe them!

In several of these attempts, these criminals have contacted people via social media with an invitation to connect to “Gina Abercrombie.”  When they have, they received a message saying that, for a certain sum of money, they could be named a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations or United Nations Ambassador of Peace. In similar scams, victims were then requested to send money to an office in London. Ambassador Abercrombie-Winstanley does not make UN appointments and would not solicit funds from people. In other attempts, the perpetrators have sent unsolicited emails for fees to process immigrant visa documents and work permits.

Correspondence purporting to be from Ambassador Abercrombie-Winstanley requesting any payment of funds or personal information is false. We caution against providing any personal or financial information to unsolicited emails or social media contact.

If you would like more information about how the UN does appoint its Goodwill Ambassadors, please see the UN website: http://ask.un.org/faq/14597

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U.S. Embassy Beirut: Ambassador Hale Does Not Want Your Money (Fraud Alert)

Posted: 12:15 pm EDT
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The U.S. Embassy in Beirut released a fraud alert on April 9 alerting Lebanese of scammers impersonating Ambassador David Hale and the American Embassy in Lebanon:

Internet scam artists have tried to impersonate American Ambassador David Hale and the American Embassy in an attempt to get Lebanese people to send them money.  Don’t believe them!

In several of these attempts, these criminals have contacted people via social media with an invitation to connect to “David Hale.”  When they have, they received a message saying that, for a certain sum of money, they could be named a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations.  Victims were then requested to send money to an office in London.  Ambassador Hale does not make UN appointments and would not solicit funds from people.  In other attempts, the perpetrators have sent unsolicited emails for fees to process immigrant visa documents and work permits.

Correspondence purporting to be from Ambassador Hale requesting any payment of funds or personal information is false.

We caution against providing any personal or financial information to unsolicited emails or social media contact.

If you would like more information about how the UN does appoint its Goodwill Ambassadors, please see the UN website: ask.un.org/faq/14597

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This appears to be a new variation to the “419 scams.” This is not the first time Internet scammers have impersonated an American ambassador. Starting around 2011, scammers have impersonated Terence. P. McCulley, who was previously the U.S. ambassador to Mali and Nigeria and currently chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in the Ivory Coast.  A variation of his name, Terence P. McCauley has also been floating around the net. And when it became widely known that this is a scam, the scammers up the ante by offering compensation to scam victims. (see Yo! The scammers are current with the news, now use the name of new US Ambassador to Abuja, Terence P. McCulley for bait).

Click here for the FBI Common Fraud Schemes page.

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Ambassador David Hale: From US Embassy Beirut to US Embassy Islamabad

Posted: 01:16 am EDT
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Ambassador David Hale. Taken at the Green Park and Friendship Square, Jan 2014. Photo by US Embassy Beirut/FB

Here is a brief bio via US Embassy Beirut:

David Hale, a career Senior Foreign Service Officer, was confirmed as Ambassador to the Lebanese Republic on August 1, 2013.  Previously, he was the Special Envoy for Middle East Peace, 2011-2013, a Deputy Envoy (2009-11), and U.S. Ambassador to Jordan (2005-8), after multiple tours in Jordan and Lebanon and service in Tunisia, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and at the U.S. Mission to the UN.  In Washington, Hale was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Israel, Egypt and the Levant and Director for Israel-Palestinian Affairs.  He held several staff posts, including Executive Assistant to Secretary of State Albright.  In 2013 Secretary Clinton gave him the Distinguished Service Award, and Hale has several Department Superior and Meritorious Honor awards.  He speaks Arabic, is a graduate of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, and a native of New Jersey.

If confirmed, Ambassador Hale would succeed career diplomat Richard Olson who was appointed ambassador to Pakistan in 2012. All chief of mission appointees to Islamabad since 1973 had been career diplomats.  We have to go all the way back to 1969 t0 find a political appointee to this post.

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